User Name Edit Option

A person needs to be able to create a publicly visible user name to associate with their content in social platforms. They need to be able to edit this identity and view how they are seen.

How does this mitigate hate?

Allowing a user to choose a user name for public display other than their real name can reduce the ability for harassers to follow them across different platforms or into the real world.

(A major chunk of this pattern comes from Designing Social Interfaces by Erin Malone and Christian Crumlish)


When to use it?

Use wherever a user may participate and need a persistent way to get to her public profile.

Use when a user is about to participate and wants to change the display of her attribution.

Use to help clarify and confirm to a user that they are actually signed in.

How to use it?

Core Profile Name Collection & Display

Consider collecting both a first and last name, but also allow a publicly displayed name, which can be a handle, a nickname, or the user’s name. It’s their choice. The full name is shared with connections, which then disambiguates who a person may be, especially if their associated image is an icon or an avatar.

Don’t make the display name the same as the user login. Doing this gives phishers and other nefarious persons half of a user’s login information.

You should provide a safe place for people to connect and guarding their login and personal information is critical.

Display Name

Allow the user to customize their display name or provide a nickname option.

Allow users to change their display name at any time. This should not change their overall account.

To reduce identity theft and spam, encourage the use of a display name that does not expose an authentication ID or email address.

Provide the means to post in a “publicly anonymous” way to reduce the need for additional, separate identities.


Separating the display name from an account owner name allows users to change what is publicly displayed on their account whenever they need to.

The display name change would be separate from the account and gives flexibility to the account owner for how they might be seen.


The ability to hide behind pseudonyms or anonymity is a feature that harassers and extremists may take advantage of in order to harass other individuals. For every feature offering safety, there will be people who take advantage of those features to create harm.


Instagram allows users to identify themselves with a real name and to show a user name which they can change every 14 days if they desire. (screenshot taken May 2022)


Crumlish, Christian, and Erin Malone. Designing Social Interfaces : Principles, Patterns, and Practices for Improving the User Experience. 2nd ed. Sebastopol, Ca: O’Reilly Media, Inc., August, 2015. pp 59-63; 112-117.

Matias, J.Nathan. “The Real Name Fallacy.” Coral by Vox Media, January 3, 2017.

van der Nagel, Emily. 2018. “Alts and Automediality: Compartmentalising the Self through Multiple Social Media Profiles”. M/C Journal 21 (2).

Vilk, Viktorya, Elodie Vialle, and Matt Bailey. “No Excuse for Abuse: What Social Media Companies Can Do Now to Combat Online Harassment and Empower Users.” Edited by Summer Lopez and Suzanne Nossel. PEN AMERICA. PEN America, March 31, 2021.

York, Jillian C. “A Case for Pseudonyms.” Electronic Frontier Foundation, July 29, 2011.

Young, Kaliya “Identity Woman. “Identity and Context: People and Personal Data,” 2012.