Usernames

Your username in an online dating profile matters more than you might realize. I know, I know; none of the sites make it clear enough. None of them force you really take time to think about that step, or let you fill out the other aspects of your profile while you ponder the all-important “username” field and come back to it once the creative juices are flowing. Dating sites are a work in progress. But trust me: usernames MATTER. Don’t create a totally random one that you gave a mere second’s thought!

Check out this link about a JDate user who picked an icky name. I confess I had no idea what “tossed salad” meant, but it turns out it meant something kinda kinky that did not convey what this gal intended. I’ve had ever so many users come to me with usernames that either convey something totally off (wrong gender, for example) or just failed to help them stand out and shine.

Your username, coupled with your profile picture, is the MOST visible thing in search results. It’s the first thing potential dates see, and as this humorous article indicates, it makes a big impression (sometimes unintentionally). It’s either a huge advantage, a huge disadvantage, or a missed opportunity!

What makes for a BAD username?

Lots of things. You can check out this link with a decent round-up of some of the very worst username strategies, but there are a lot of more mundane things that make for bad usernames. Trying too hard to perfectly sum yourself up is a common pitfall. So is anything remotely sexual. Generally you should avoid anything with numbers, or super descriptive words (SkiGirlSeattle is very boring, even if it’s easy to come up with—and it only conveys information we’d be able to find in other areas of her profile). It’s also best not to just recycle whatever old school internet handle has been your Twitter username and forum login info for years—stuff we created c. 1998 is usually not compelling enough for the competitive ecosystem of online dating.

What makes for a GOOD username?

Something playful and light, relevant to what you’re like, and funny if you’re a bit of a jokester. Groan-inducing puns are terrific here. A username doesn’t have to encompass your entire personality to be good; it just has to be interesting and catchy enough to make someone want to click and learn a bit more about you. The goal is to blend your sense of humor, possibly an activity or hobby or some esoteric word that in some way relates to you, and combine it all with word play that makes someone go “hmm” (in the good way, not this way) and give you a second look. Of course, this will be paired with a GREAT profile picture, and a GREAT profile. How can she resist!?

Deconstructing some fake username ideas

Let’s analyze a couple usernames and think about what they convey to potential matches. These first ones are mainly designed with a straight guy in mind.

CoolGuy4u69 – No! Very bad! Wrong!
PRO: Nothing, absolutely nothing.
CON: The “Cool Guys” part is boring and the rest is borderline creepy/offensive to most gals. Even if sex is important to you, you come off like a complete jackass if you actually spell that out with middle school shorthand. As covered in the roundup link of bad username ideas, avoid anything sexxxxy here. Trust me. The sex comes later; you can’t frontload it in a username. You WILL get laid eventually if you come off as a human and not a sexbot troll douchebag. Also avoid awkward SMS-speak like “u” for “you” and “4” for “for.” You’ll alienate more people than you attract, even if that is in fact how you communicate in short form like text messages or casual emails. Remember, this is your VERY first impression. Don’t you usually wait until a couple texts in to get that lazy with someone new? ;)

Jeremy1987 – Bad
PRO: Inoffensive and uncontroversial
CON: Booooring! All this tells me is that you’re a dude (probably) who’s named Jeremy (probably) who may or may not have been born and/or graduated and/or created this profile in 1987. Er. This is not useful data. Life is short and there are waaaay too many dudes online you’re competing with; you’ve got to find a way to stand out a bit more than this. So don’t just go sticking in the number of your birth year or area code or whatever. Numbers = not remotely compelling, unless you manage to work the Fibonacci sequence in there and you’re an actual mathematician or something. That would make them relevant and witty, and likely to stand out to similarly math-minded gals.

PinotGrizzly – Maybe
PRO: Sounds playful with subtle word play; indicates that this user likes wine and has that Northwest-scruffy vibe (you know, like a bit too much stuff from Filson and a few days’ of stubble). Sounds somewhat hot/sexy yet sophisticated.
CON: Could possibly signify “bear,” which is a slang term in the gay community for guys who are a bit hairier/less effeminate. Could send the wrong message about your orientation, despite you self-identifying as straight on the site. (As my husband would jokingly yell, “WORDS MEAN THINGS!” But he’s right. Think about the double-entendre and maybe check the terms you want to use inUrban Dictionary, but with a grain of salt.)

SkiRainier – A-OK
PRO: Totally inoffensive, and devoid of awkward numbers/underscores; conveys a bit about your potential interests which can help spark a conversation and appeal to similarly outdoorsy singles (or singles who find skiers hot, or singles who want someone to help them learn to ski, etc.)
CON: Still a little boring, but you’re getting there! There’s nothing bad here, but it doesn’t elicit a huge reaction other than “oh, I guess that guy likes to ski/be outdoorsy.” We can do even better than this, but it’s certainly not bad. I just aim higher, and you should too!

PhantomScrollbooth – Pretty good
PRO: It’s a bit geeky and witty; relates you to beloved children’s book that heavily features math, and makes a subtle joke that shows levity and a sense of humor. It stands out from other usernames in a list. Obviously, if you don’t get the pun because you’re not familiar with this book, or you didn’t particularly like the book much, then it wouldn’t work so well. But if the shoe fits, then this is a fun playful username that sets you apart.
CON: It’s kind of inane (unless you’re a UI designer by trade who actually deals with scroll bars and such). It doesn’t convey quite as much as it could, but it’s still heads above most usernames out there.

SingleMaltBrisket – Better
PRO: Grabs interest with a slight play on words; clearly indicates that you like a) whiskey and b) meat. Anyone who isn’t comfortable with a partner who consumes those substances is likely to skip you, which is actually  in your best interests if this username fits your vibe. (Again, this is an “only if the shoe fits” example.)
CON: Potentially makes you sound drinky. But if you live a lifestyle in which you do enjoy whiskey fairly regularly, then that shouldn’t be a problem; the rest of your profile is going to be so well-written and whip-smart that you won’t sound sloppy or alcoholic. RIGHT? (Don’t forget that I can help with that, haha.)

Real-life username examples

Above you have a few examples that I made up to illustrate a point. Maybe you can’t tell, but it’s really hard for me to come up with pretend GOOD examples. In light of that, I asked a bunch of OkCupid users who had decent usernames if I could include them here as examples, so you can get a feel for what works well! These are real people who have been generous enough to share their actual usernames, or sometimes allowed me to share a vague notion of what their username was like. (Note that real usernames generally can’t contain spaces, but I’m deliberately listing any multi-word entries as phrases to add a tad more privacy for these volunteers.)

Wordplay puns/rhymes

These are terrific if you are something of a wordsmith, if you speak another language, or if you happen to come up with a deliciously clever idea.

Dorian Greyscale
Dada Scientist
Innocuous Socks
Feinting Goat

Plays on your name

Most usernames incorporating someone’s real name are lame, like Jake482Seattle. Boring. But if you can come up with an even halfway clever way to incorporate your name, you’re in the clear!

Summergeddon
I’m Captain Brian
Oh Hi It’s Adam
FawnForce

Random Silliness

These are just great. They make you chuckle, or pause and think. They hint at an underlying sense of humor or whimsy, while standing out from the competition.

Gluten Is Great
Reverend Von YOLO
El Custardo
Day of the Cow

References to something specific

These can be song lyrics, common turns of phrase, pop culture slogans, etc. In ours we have a common gem of wisdom regarding puzzle completion, a phrase from The Lorax, a reference to an old SNL skit, and a co-opted marketing phrase. These are all way more eye-catching and curiosity-inducing than your average username.

The Corner Pieces
Speak For Trees
Need More Cowbell
Burger of the Day

Creatively self descriptive

I mostly discourage “descriptive” usernames, like “FitSwimmerGuy,” because they just sound cheesy, boring, a bit boasty, and kind of outdated. However, if you can come up with a more clever way to describe yourself and what you do, go for it! (Run it by me if you’re not sure.) These are all descriptive usernames that give a hint as to what people do or are like, without attempting to completely sum up their entire essence.

Code Grinder
Stager Monkey
Casual Subversive

Ways to be creative even when you feel out of ideas:

Even creatively bankrupt online daters can still come up with interesting usernames. It just takes a bit more stretching. Both of these users came up with ways to be playful and shed a bit of personality in their username choices! (Note that misspelling is only okay when it’s deliberately playful like this, not when it looks like you actually don’t know how to spell something!)

Shitz And Gigglz
OKDamnCupid

A username creation exercise

If you need to come up with a good username for dating sites, it’s worth putting some effort into it. On your own, I can’t give you easy exercises to get there—but if you’re working with me, I can get you started!

Make a list of lots of words associated with you. Things you do, things you like, things you work at, things you watch, things you eat, things you enjoy. Try to keep this list to more nouns and verbs than adjectives.

That’s it! My clients get more of my help in this process than you random readers, but I do hope this guide is of assistance to everyone struggling in username purgatory!

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