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Can’t Handle The Cringe?

A look into silly handles from childhood and growing up with the internet

The year is 2010. Nine-year-old me has spent a few weeks eyeing the prospect of a Gmail account to chat with my friends. Wary of the dangers of the internet, my mom finally acquiesced, and sat with me as I created my account.

We sat there together, filling out all the necessary information — when I’d normally be yawning over the boring stuff, I was squirming in my seat, eager to choose my handle. I knew it had to be something fun, exciting, and quintessentially me. So, naturally, I pondered it with great concern.

I leafed through my address book from summer camp, looking for inspiration, when I came across an email handle that caught my eye immediately — “thepicklequeen.”

While I didn’t (and still don’t) like pickles, I knew that this was the path I wanted to take with my email, given my overwhelming, overpowering, and intense obsession with chocolate. My handle would be “thechocolatequeen.” It is the perfect encapsulation of who I am. Plus, it has a nice ring to it.

As I typed that into the server, I was appalled to find out that someone else had the same brilliant idea as me. I considered trying to reach them and have a chocolate eating contest to settle who was the real Chocolate Queen. But, as a nine-year-old, I realized that I might not have as big of an appetite as the person defending the title, and couldn’t stomach the thought of that crushing defeat.

I did what any kid would have done at that moment. I added my birthday to the end of the aforementioned handle, and thus, my beloved, silly email address was born.

From then on, “thechocolatequeen” was my identifying handle on the internet. It even had a brief stint as my Instagram handle. I should honestly change it back.

As much as it pains me, I now only use “thechocolatequeen” for promo emails and correspondences with old friends and family. But, looking back, I miss the unapologetic silliness that it conveyed, and decided to look into the slightly cringe elementary school email trend and how it’s progressed now that it’s 2022.

I used my Instagram story to find other silly email fiends, and their handles and stories did not disappoint.

Samantha Stermer made her handle around 2009, opting for one that didn’t reveal her full name at her father’s request due to safety concerns. She explained that as a kid, she was always climbing things. Fittingly, her nickname became “monkey,” so she decided to tack on her birthday and make that her handle.

“It was such a pain when I got older and had to figure out how to swap everything,” she said,  noting that in high school, if anyone had seen it, she would have been “mortified.”

Now, she has a more professional handle, but “monkey” remains her handle on iCloud. She finds it hilarious that when texting people on a recent trip to Portugal, the messages were coming from that account.

Sarah Lotfi, better known as “wdwfanatic,” created that handle in grade four or five, when her Walt Disney World phase was in full swing.

She explained that though she only uses this account for promos now, she still identifies with her younger self, and is a self-proclaimed “Disney adult.” While she fell out of this phase for a bit, she said that she spent lots of time during quarantine watching videos about Disney secrets. “It’s cool that I came back to myself,” she said.

Like many of us, when Lotfi started CEGEP, she realized that she needed to create a more professional account, but wasn’t happy about it. “I don’t want an email with my name in it,” she said. “That’s so boring.”

Lotfi laments that her name is often misspelled. “We wouldn’t have this problem if I was just the Walt Disney World fanatic, you know?”

In her opinion, we could all use a little more fun and self-expression in our emails. “Everything is so sanitized and so ‘LinkedIn.’ I hate that.”

I suggest a revolution where we revert back to our silly handles. Who needs a job? If they don’t want me as the Chocolate Queen, they won’t be getting me as anything else. I mean it.  At some point, they’ll have to notice the copious amount of chocolate wrappers in the work garbage cans.

In all seriousness, it’s very interesting to watch the shift in ways in which internet safety has changed as we’ve grown up.

“It’s weird that we used to protect ourselves by pretending we weren’t ourselves on the internet,” said Stermer. “Now, we are ourselves but we have to kinda change ourselves a little bit, and filter what part of ourselves [show] through.”

For better or for worse, as adults, the internet is now a place for real names and creating profiles that make us professional and employable. Or maybe that’s just a part of growing up. Either way, it’s important not to lose sight of what makes us who we are — whether it be monkeys, Disney World fanatics, or chocolate queens.


Graphic by Madeline Schmidt

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