I'm sure this is something most frequent internet users have seen at some point in some online interaction; some one pickes a handle, screen-name, or username that just seems to completely undermine anything they could possibly have to say.

For the purposes of the question let's say the username is Trolly McTrollmaster.

Is there any way of pointing out that no one is likely to take them seriously because they chose a terrible username, without causing undue offense, or escalation?

I know a name is just a name, but some people... Well, go a little overboard.


To clarify, I'm not just picking on someone for a poor choice in name. I usually ignore silly usernames untill someone with a silly username wants to join in on a serious discussion and complains that they're not being taken seriously, or when the username broadcasts an obvious agenda.

  • @DaveG Not a friend. Usually random internet people trying to make some point or another, with a username that makes them a little too easy to dismiss. – apaul Aug 27 at 0:50
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    What are you hoping to gain, here? – Ash Aug 27 at 1:24
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    I feel like going "well with a name like X..." is kinda reductionary, honestly. I mean I see your example, and sure, I'm sure there's someone out there with those names because of course there is, I am just not sure what you'd gain by arguing their choice of handle while also trying to have another serious argument at the same time.... shrug – Ash Aug 27 at 1:37
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    So is your goal here to get validated about your use of the Ad Hominem Fallacy? – Clay07g Aug 27 at 15:00
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    @apaul Perhaps you should add some details to the question then. By "outing themselves", I assume you mean that their username is directly contradictory to their point (For example, "KKK-GrandMaster" is proposing plans for national racial tolerance). That scenario is a little different than the one you painted in the question. – Clay07g Aug 27 at 15:14
up vote 2 down vote accepted

When it is "my" community - by my own sense of ownership - I message the person right away. Something like

Your username is not appropriate for our site. Perhaps you meant it as a joke, but it could be painful for many of us. Please change it now.

If I am a mod or admin, I do this by pm and if I am ignored, even for just a few minutes, I'll send a stronger message.

I don't know your reasons for choosing that name but it can't be on this site. If you don't change it, you'll be kicked.

And I act on that, usually in consensus with my fellow mods and admins. I have done this more than once on a server of mine. Most people do change quickly (sometimes with some embarrassed mumbling about discord and their gamertag) or leave the server.

If I'm not a mod it's the same process except I have to message an admin to report the name and say what I've said about it.

How what about when I don't own the site in any way and don't feel I can take action myself? I would still message the person, but probably more publicly, since I would not be entirely certain that my preferences are the site preferences. I might word that more like

I find your username really inappropriate. Perhaps you meant it as a joke, but it could be painful for many of us. Please change it right away.

If others feel the same way, the name may well end up changed.

I wouldn't use any of this for Trolly McTrollface. But names that contain racial slurs, incitements to violence, hateful words for any group of people (even if the person is a member of the group), or just insults in general, I will call out. Also real names that are not yours. (One of my servers attracts people who think it's hilarious to use the names of people who are famously opposed to the aims our groups work for.) You have all the words in the universe for your user name. If you don't want to use your real name, that's cool, but there's no need to be rude or offensive, and being a joke doesn't change that.

  • Good answer, but I have one nitpick. In my experience it's usually not worth bothering with the warning in case of obviously offensive usernames (like racial slurs and stuff). In the context of a community I'm in charge of I usually just go for the ban in those cases. (Minecraft servers in my instance) – Magisch Aug 27 at 6:17
  • Well, as I said, I give them only a few minutes. Sometimes minor rudeness like dumb or ass are just part of someone's rough-n-tough gamer persona and they'll change it quickly. The ruder the name the less likely they'll change it, but they tend to just leave the server when they're called on it. – Kate Gregory Aug 27 at 13:25

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