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The Column

How to Get Hatemail

Most people's e-mail addresses are wrong. Sure, people still get all their e-mail. But if your address is "," odds are that we don't and you're not.

When you are born, you are given a name and you have very little choice in the matter. Some might even say you have none at all. Most parents pick names even before they know what their kid looks like. But there's a reason to this - if we let children pick their own names, we'd have to wait until they were old enough to talk, and immaturity would lead every one of them to pick something ridiculous.

If kids chose their own names, we'd have people named SpongeBob Squarepants Johnson and NSYNC Smith. Because of the lack of foresight that comes with being four, we protect our children from their own errors in judgment by handing them a name and saying "live with it."

It's a bit of a trade off though; if kids could choose their own names, no one would ever be named Tanner. "But mom - I don't want to get beat up for the next ten years." Ever notice that kids with names like that are track stars? How do you think they learned to run so fast?

With the exception of those given to you at work and school (and even those have exceptions), we do get to choose our own e-mail addresses and Instant Messenger names, and we'd be better off if we didn't. How many of us make a horribly poor choice? Well, how many of us have addresses ending with the year "1998?"

But choosing the current year (which is only the current year for a maximum of 12 months) is not the only mistake people make. Some people put their birthday on the end of their address, which would be great if everyone memorized each other's birthdays. Your e-mail address or IM name should be easy to remember, or it fails to serve its purpose. If your phone number is shorter than the numbers at the end of your name, I will never send you e-mail. Especially if random letters in your name are capitalized.

Then, of course, there are vanity names. People take addresses devoted to their favorite teams, actors, singers, and writers (anyone?), but often choose these too quickly. No one wants to change his or her IM name every two months, so using any reference to pop culture is shortsighted. I bet someone out there slapped himself in the forehead before saying, "Chumbawumba_fan? What was I thinking?"

The opposite end of the spectrum is when your e-mail address or screen name is an attack on something you hate. Politicians, athletes, the kid down the hall - hey, it happens. And it's probably pretty funny for a while - until you apply for a job. "Um, yeah, you can e-mail me at Can't wait to hear from you, Mr. Turner."

The manager of the Atlanta Braves is actually named Cox, and they've got a pitcher named Millwood and two outfielders named Jones. While I was at spring training this year, they had a bullpen catcher named Alan Butts. If I didn't take the picture myself, I wouldn't have believed it.

Many people try to describe themselves in their address, but end up choosing words that they don't quite understand. There are a lot of girls out there that want to come off as sexy, so they have names like "vixen," and "temptress," and other such synonyms for "slut" and "tease." It's getting to the point where I expect an IM from someone named "Ihookupwith17guyseveryweekend." Or "Ihookupwith17guyseveryweekend2002."

But the worst e-mail or IM gaffe is when someone chooses something that doesn't resemble him or herself at all. Sure, you're smart or good looking or great in bed. And we needed Hotmail to remind us. Hey - Basketballstud24. You may play basketball and your jersey number might be 24, but unless that's an abbreviation for student, you've probably been kidding yourself for years.

When you choose an e-mail address or a new screen name, please take something that represents who you really are, and who you will be for at least the next three years. Use as few numbers as possible. Choose something easy to spell. Don't use capital letters unless they're at the beginning of words. Make it simple on the rest of us. And for god sakes, don't name your kids "Tanner."

I'm sure I've stepped on a lot of toes with this column. If so, I apologize, and I encourage you to send me your feedback. I can be reached at Sorry - that's DeBBie_GiBsOn_faN98.

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