You Must Supply

When I started my Facebook account, I followed the general directions pretty cooperatively. That means that when they asked for my first name, I gave it. I anticipated that there would be a later chance to enter a different nickname or username. Alas, my expectation misled me.
 
So Facebook has known me as “Andrew K M Adam” all along. That’s true enough, because it’s a fine name and all; it’s just that I never use that full name in either formal or casual settings (only for legal purposes).
 
I recently started trying to induce Facebook to accept one of the names that I use in public. I asked it first to list “A K M” as my first name, so that I would show up as “A K M [no middle initial] Adam.” Their system didn’t like that, and I was not surprised, so I tried again: “A [middle initials] K M Adam.” That one failed, too; evidently “A” isn’t a long enough first name? ”AKMA [no middle initial] Adam.” That one’s unacceptable, too; it has too many upper-case letters. I suppose I could get “Akma Adam” past their censors, but that doesn’t communicate a connection to the writer/teacher “A K M Adam” as I would want it to.
 
I understand Facebook not wanting every hysterical teen putting their name in all-caps — but one might wish there were some reasonable accommodation for somebody to be identified by initials.

2 comments / Add your comment below

  1. When writing my dissertation, I had been frustrated by one very important source, published and written in England, which used the convention first initial + last name for all references. Several times it was positively confusing. I resolved in my bibliography to have the most complete names I could dig up. It was a fun afternoon, indeed.

    G. E. M. Anscombe shows up as a result as “Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret Anscombe”, and G. M. A. Grube as “Georges Maximilian Anthony Grube.” That last one was particularly tough to dig up. I never did figure out C. D. C. Reeve. There were a few middle initials I never tracked down, and some less-known authors as well who I couldn’t find other sources besides a single article which didn’t give their name.

    Then there is the ever-popular E. E. Cummings, who–contrary to many people’s belief–did not sign his name in lower-case and never said or did anything to suggest that he wanted his name lower-cased.

    I enjoy obsessively listing “Augustine, Aurelius” in bibliographies and notes, too.

    Names are funny things. I recoil at people who call me “Tom”, but then, “Thomas” is my legal name. Then there’s the famous philosopher Aristocles, indeed, so important that Whitehead (Alfred North, natch) said all philosophy was footnotes to him. But maybe his name wasn’t Aristocles after all. Historians aren’t sure anymore, but his nickname “Broad” [Plato] is what he is known as. And then there’s the emperor Gaius, known for most of history by his nickname “booties” [Caligula].

    Names are curiously intimate and public at the same time. As symbols of our identity, they are important, and mangling one’s name is a symbolic mangling of one’s person. And yet, they are public property, in that they are the handles by which we are known and identified.

    It was important to me when I changed my name that I did so legally, right away. Indeed, since I did that, I made it sure that I had just the one name–no middle–and that I was known by the one name I had. No three names for each cat for me! And having been born Michael, and known as Mike, Michael, Mickey, Mikey, and whatever else by people who obsessively make up names, being Thomas, just Thomas, was a real advantage.

    So I would suggest that facebook is not asking really for how one is known, or what one is called, but what one’s name actually is.

  2. Thomas, I usually just use the designations that the publications themselves bear. I know I’ve deviated from that once or twice, but it makes most sense to me; presumably the author has had some say in it, and it prepares the reader to find the publication in the big bibliographic world. So if I cited Anscombe in my dissertation (don’t remember if I did, though her Intention has grown in importance to my own thinking since I had to read it for Stanley Hauerwas’s grad seminar in theology.
     
    Your observations about names and ethics do resonate with me, and back before I had a nickname I always preferred the full “Andrew” to any diminutive or variation. I’m not quite sure, though, that Facebook is much interested in a putatively “actual” name, so much as in administering their database for maximum data hygiene.

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