And that’s assuming the address is available. Lore has it that the competition for a reasonable married email name has become so cut-throat that some girlfriends are reserving an address with their boyfriends’ last names, just in case he pops the question.
For this story, I emailed a particularly digitally-engaged new bride I know, a social-media professional. First I received an auto-reply telling me to update my online address book. Then, I got a frantic list from her of other sites she’s wrangling with post-wedding: “Custom URLs, man,” she wrote. “Most social platforms were easy. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram let me change my URL and name, no problem. It's Pinterest that's trouble. Also, Etsy. Apparently you can't change your Etsy username... unless I want to start a new profile and lose all my purchase data.”
These things aren’t huge, of course. But they can add to existing hesitation that comes along with changing your name and, in some ways, how people perceive you. “I did think about how much of a pain it would be to change my email address and my Twitter and that kind of stuff,” Ashley Rayner, a librarian from Chicago who kept her own name when she got married last year, told me. “I know it’s small, but, ugh, it’s just another thing.”
Making a name
Studies on the culture of brides’ decisions about their last names have always shown that women with more public careers are more likely to be “keepers.” The 2004 Harvard study Making a Name found that a major jump in women keeping their maiden names in the 1970s coincided the emergence of second-wave feminism and a growing set of women who worked. “Women began to ‘make a name’ for themselves,” the study’s authors write, “and more often insisted upon retaining their name at marriage.”
Today, not only are more and more women obtaining higher degrees and becoming an influential part of the workforce, they’re also getting married later, and have an even larger digital footprint to consider. In the digital age, it’s not just the journalists and published authors out there who are considering their "bylines." Social media and the ever-growing, searchable self have opened up public personalities for nearly everyone, particularly young professionals.
Michael Fertik, the founder of the digital personality management site Reputation.com, calls this “digital equity,” and he finds a lot of clients who seek his company’s services are worried about it. Largely, they are professional women. “It is certainly a community who are reluctant to give up all the equity they’ve built up in their careers, in their names, and so forth,” Fertik said.
The company has set up services to help women make the digital transition when they decide they want to drop their maiden names, or when they divorce and want to switch back. He says there’s a lot more panic around the process than there needs to be. “If a consideration is your digital findability, I think you can certainly solve this with a high degree of accuracy if you give it just a little bit of effort,” Fertik said. “I don’t think you’re going to lose all the equity.”