Future Tense

This Thanksgiving I’m Thankful for Everyone’s Bizarre, Performative Display Names on Twitter

They’re all adding 30 characters to their Twitter names.


November on Twitter always comes with a sigh of relief. That’s when all the people who were doing wacky Halloween monikers in the lead-up to Oct. 31 switch back to their normal display names. But this year, we didn’t even make it halfway through November before Twitter upended our nicknameless tranquility.

You may not have thought much of it last week when, along with doubling the character limit for tweets, Twitter also expanded the character limit for display names from 20 to 50. My reaction was something along the lines of, “OK, a rare win for people with hyphenated and otherwise very long names …” But where I saw a minor administrative change, other tweeters saw possibility. A few days into the 50-character display name era, the service has become overrun with crazy-long names. (Twitter’s war on brevity continues.) As one user pointed out, it’s already getting out of control.

I’ve seen Twitter names that are followed by strings of emojis, joke names, names that end in redundant-on-purpose phrases like “who has a very long name now,” even names that quietly protest Trump or Twitter itself.

It’s similar to a concept that BuzzFeed dubbed “nameflaming” last month: using one’s display name to mock someone who has quote-tweeted you. (Does this sound like a foreign language to you? Welcome to Twitter—it’s a weird place.) As annoying as these names look crowding up our feeds—it’s like our tweets are now tweeting longer tweets—you’ve got to admire the creativity. There’s an adage that if you give humans an empty text field on the internet, they will fill it—usually with strange, sad, and inspiring things. It’s a testament to the bizarre culture of Twitter and maybe human ingenuity in general that its users keep finding such weird ways to use it. Consider the one below, who promised to stop tweeting altogether and communicate only through his display name.

Memedreamextreme hasn’t stuck with that plan, for the record. But it’s heartening to see that, in the ways that don’t involve Nazis and hate speech at least, some genuinely good things about Twitter’s weird culture continue to abide. Let’s all be thankful.