What is in a name?

4 November 2013

I was reflecting recently about how we use names to identify both others and ourselves.

With the prevalence of the internet in our daily lives we can be asked to sign up to many different applications and pick a username, but what do we choose? Do we choose an email address that uses our name to help people remember it? What do we do if our name, in which our identity is wrapped up in, is already taken? Do see choose a username that hints at or masks our true identity? Do we use the same username for all our accounts or do we change it depending on our audience? What do we do if our account gets hacked or compromised; do we bin the username and it’s associated identity?

Some of the young people we work with have multiple Facebook and Instagram accounts, which can be hard for them to keep track of. As young people explore their identities both on and off-line, how they choose to identity themselves is part of that exploration.

Having worked for Urban Hope for two months now I am finally getting to grip with the all the names of the young people I have to remember. Our names are really important, they are usually the first word we learn to write and will often remain with us all our life and so become an a large part of our identity. Some of the young who we meet for the first time either through coming along to Urban Hope or meeting young people out on detached work, choose to give fake names. It can feel like they are trying to protect themselves from a strange adult showing interest in them.

A value we hold dear at Urban Hope is that we strive to be relational; asking for names and intentionally using young peoples names is a great way to build those relationships. Our names and how people use them are used can show a lot about that relationship. It was a great sign of the relationships that we had built over the two months of detached work when I heard my name either in an argument about which team they should put me on or the cry of “Dylan, Dylan, pass, pass”, as we were playing football. Even greater is when young people feel that they have enough of a relationship with you that they can play with your name or give you a nickname.

What is in a name? Quite a lot really, it’s the beginning of relationship.

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