What’s In A Name?

Only recently did my dad tell me that he thought of my name after slapping my mom on the ass…

They had been volleying a few names back and forth when the actress Fanny Brice’s name popped into his head after an archaic bit of word association. But once they had the first name chosen, there was the middle name to worry about, and how it would sound with my last name, and what my initials would be.

And what it would look like on a business card.

They recognized the power of a name and were cognizant that whatever they named me at that point so long ago would, in some way, whether small or large, affect how the rest of my life would turn out. I love my name, and I thank them for it, but the 21st century equivalent of this is still a little jarring…

Last week, I stumbled across an article in New York Magazine that brought to my attention the growing trend of parents registering their newborn children’s accounts on various social networks, with not-so-few of them even posting content both about and on behalf of their kids.

At first, I rolled my eyes over the ridiculous quotes from parents, which ranged from proud to a bit defensive, but eventually, as I pondered it more, I’ve realized what an interesting decision this is for parents to make.

Back in 2011, Forbes posted an article that advised, “Be warned, current and future parents. When your children reach the age when they’re actually allowed to sign up for these accounts, they might be resentful if you didn’t plan ahead for them and some other similarly-named person has already nabbed their desired e-mail address or Twitter handle.” In our world of limited characters, those characters have real value, so is it responsible parenting to take steps in order to secure your child’s digital territory?

On the flip side, doesn’t it begin to feel like we’re immediately plugging even our newborns into the proverbial Matrix, all to give them every advantage we can think of? We’re dehumanizing them by turning them into a brand whose content is able to be consumed the second they enter this world. As ABC News correspondent Darren Rovell asks, “When do you become a brand? Some people say it’s for people who achieved something. I would argue that in some sense you become a brand the second you’re born.”

But there are repercussions to this proactive branding. Your name is personal, it is your sense of self, it is the formation sounds that most feel like home to your ears, but some of that magic is stripped away when it’s filtered down to the glossiness of the concept of a brand. I have to wonder if this is actually what’s best for the child or if it’s what’s best for the proud parents that might be acting hastily under the veil of good intentions.

Ultimately, I don’t know if it’s possible to decide whether the logistical advantages of staking your children’s plot of Internet land is worth ensuring them a digital footprint before the footprint on their birth certificate is dry, but what I keep thinking about is a quote my mom once said to me about a parent’s real mindset when it comes to their children: “Having a child is the most narcissistic thing you can do.”