A word of advice: On Facebook, don't play the name game

One college student changed her middle name to her first name on her Facebook profile to see what would happen, and now the social-networking site won't let her change it back.

Kristin Kuhn, the UCSD student who claims half-jokingly that Facebook has kidnapped her name. She is not willing, however, to trade her cat in order to get it back. Facebook

Paging Mark Zuckerberg: at least one of your 50 million peons would like to have her name back, please.

Elizabeth Kuhn is a junior at the University of California-San Diego, majoring in international studies and Middle Eastern studies. Except her name isn't really Elizabeth, it's Kristin; she changed her first name to her middle name on her Facebook profile as a quirky experiment, and now the social network won't let her change it back.

"I took my first name off because, well, I'm not really sure why," Kuhn told me. (Full disclosure: I know her personally. We are Facebook friends. That's how I knew about her name dilemma in the first place.) "I think I was wondering how long it would take before people actually thought my name was Elizabeth." It was a sort of experiment to test the power of Facebook, she explained.

"The problem is that I soon realized I didn't really care and started to miss my first name." So she tried to change it back.

"Nothing happened," she said. "So I tried again, and again, over a couple weeks, but to no avail. It just wouldn't change. Then finally on one try, instead of ignoring my request as usual, up came a nasty message in red about how due to one of my previous attempts being rejected, I had been banned from using the name-change application for two weeks." That's been going on for quite some time now, she said.

Facebook has regulations against using celebrities' names, profanities, or gag names on the site, and said that it will "confirm all name changes before they take effect." That's why your request at 3 a.m. last Saturday to change your name to "Drinky McDrinkerson" didn't go through. There is, however, no easy outlet for someone like Kristin Kuhn to explain to the site's administrators that she would like her real name back.

Sure, it could be a whole lot worse. But Kuhn said that it's getting somewhat annoying to have to explain to people why she has a different name on her Facebook profile than the one she uses in real life, and why Facebook won't let her change it back. "It's demoralizing," she said in half jest.

And ultimately--and somewhat ironically--her experiment worked. "In the meantime, exactly what I predicted to happen has started to happen," she said. "New people I meet usually begin with 'Your name is Elizabeth, right?'"

Ah, the power of Facebook.

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About the author

Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.

 

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