Those of us who came of age alongside AOL must contend with something even more incriminating than a lifelong Google profile: A trail of discarded online aliases, each a distillation of how we viewed ourselves and our place in the world at the time of sign-on. The dawn of the Internet was an open invitation to free ourselves from the names our parents gave us and forge self-made identities divorced from our reputations IRL.
I’m actually kind of lucky in this respect. I’ve only ever used one online handle, and while I’ve deprecated it a bit these days in favor of my real name, I still actively use it as a login name and occasional identifier. Most anyone who’s interacted with me online for any appreciable amount of time will recognize my online alias of djwudi.
For a time, this little nugget of trivia was known only to Royce’s family and my own. At some point during my later high school years, though, a few things (namely, frustration at their being so many other Michaels in my age group, and a teenage-angst fueled desire to be “someone else”) led to my deciding to adopt the nickname of “Woody” full-time. It started with the yearbook and theater crew (both of which I was very involved with), and began to spread from there.
In the post-graduation years, I used “Woody” almost exclusively, in the social world and at my jobs. It wasn’t long before there were more people who knew me by “Woody” than by Michael.
Round about 1992 or so, the Anchorage alternative scene was somewhat in hibernation, especially for those under 21. I talked my way into a DJ spot at one club, then moved on to another, and then another, eventually spending around eight years DJing alternative/goth/industrial/retro/anything-but-pop for the Anchorage scene. My “DJ name” was obvious: DJ Woody, or, depending on how I felt when writing it out on flyers, DJ Wüdi, playing off Royce’s pseudo-Germanic version of my nickname.
The DJing eventually moved on into past tense rather than present, but as the world of the Internet grew, I soon found that short, unique names were both desirable and valuable, and that smooshing everything together into “djwudi” produced a string that, to date and to my knowledge, has not been used by anyone other than myself.
As the years have gone by, I’ve returned to using my given name in the real world and online, but I still claim djwudi on any site I sign up for.