Searching For Satisfaction

A Name Change To Change Your Past

Posted on: September 15, 2010


I was getting dressed for work yesterday when I heard an interesting story on the news – the Corn Refiners Association is petitioning the FDA to change the name of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) to “corn sugar”.  It seems that 58% of Americans think HFCS is bad for you, and numerous products are either ditching HFCS or proclaiming that they were always HFCS-free to generate sales & alleviate fears.  Needless to say, the Corn Refiners Association thinks they are getting a bad rap & that if they change the name, folks will start using their product again. 

This got me thinking about how one alludes their past.  This change from HFCS to corn sugar is but one example in history of a product or company changing their name to get over an ugly incident.  Another example is Airtran, who emerged after the Valujet crash in Florida in the 90’s – Valujet bought Airtran Airways & switched to the Airtran name because the Valujet brand was forever tainted.  Yet another example is the firm Xe Services, formally known as Blackwater Worldwide, the security company notorious for ambushing Iraqi citizens.

While companies and brands have the ability to change their name to get away from a bad past, do people have the same luxury?  Think about all the folks that are infamous…or even folks you know or have just “heard things” about.  The majority of them are stuck with their names, and the associated infamous behavior, forever.  Its not like Monica Lewinsky could just decide to call herself Pauline & be done with the whole thing, you know?

In July, the New York Times Magazine ran a great piece titled “The Web Means the End of Forgetting” which discussed the hardship of moving past an ugly incident in our digital age.  Everything is logged, saved on a server, print-screened, etc.  Where human memories fade & falter, digital ones forever store not only a mention of your transgression, but the evidence alongside it.  In a time where everything you do is not just remembered, but saved forever, how do you distance yourself from youthful transgressions?  Simply moving across the country (or across the pond) isn’t enough when anyone can Google your name and find out that your loser ex-boyfriend posted naked photos of you online, or that you wrote a less-than politically correct blog post back in college. 

People scoffed & laughed, but I think Google CEO Eric Schmidt was on the right track when he said that everyone should be allowed one name change to “distance themselves from youthful hijinks stored in their friends social media sites”   Granted, some would say that people should be more diligent about protecting their name & avoiding controversary…but at the same time, we’ve all been young.  And stupid.  Most of us just did our young stupid stuff before you could be tagged on Facebook or before someone could Tweet about it.  Kids now don’t have that luxury, and as we all know, your name means everything.  Ruin it & you’re ruined.

So what do you guys think?  Does the Google CEO have the right idea?  Can a name change change your past & give you a fresh start?

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7 Responses to "A Name Change To Change Your Past"

IDK if a name change can change one’s past & give you a fresh start. Because a large percentage of the problem is the fact that other people from your past will not let you move on. You could have been sexually promiscuous in high school, go off to college and figure out that’s not what you want to do anymore. And change. You can then go back to your hometown and they will not let you forget. They will remind you on your FB wall or on Twitter. So even with a name change, if people remember, they will remind you of what you used to do/who you used to be.

I think we have to change the culture. We as a people want others to forget our past but we will not forget others’ past…just in case one needs to be “brought down to size”. You know what I mean?

That’s a great point – if you stay in an area where folks know you & your bad behavior, then they will always remind you of it, or at least remember it. You can’t start over in that situation.

I don’t think a name change is the answer (but on the other hand, I’ve never done anything to warrant one).

I think the key to overcoming or getting past things–should one need to do so–is to own it. As you know, I write on the side while occupying a job in the real world since this journalism thing doesn’t pay the bills. I’ve tackled some pretty controversial and taboo topics in my day. I don’t hide from them (Google won’t allow me to), so I talk about them–openly. During interviews, I throw out a lot of the controversial topics I’ve covered and I include a few pieces in my portfolio since they were well written and included substance. It seems to work for me, but again, I’m not ashamed of anything I’ve written.

If you’ve done something your ashamed of, a name change might be in order. Or at the very least, a change in the name that appears on your resume. I’m of the school of thought that telling somebody the bad stuff before they get a chance to find out a bout it is always better than letting them find out and be surprised.

“telling somebody the bad stuff before they get a chance to find out a bout it is always better than letting them find out and be surprised.”

exactly. I don’t believe in name changes because it attempts to erase the past. Which is not only a futile effort, but counter-productive to growth. The past needs to be there because it documents your progression. I have plenty of regrets, but I don’t want to pretend that those things never happened, because I’ve learned from them.

Everyone should be able to accept that others’ have pasts, and they should let that past stay there in the past.

I also am a “it was written” kind of person, so I believe everything in the past was meant to happen

I actually agree with this and it is part of the reason i never use my real name online and change my online name every few years. It would be great to do this in the real world if the baggage didn’t follow you but you know what they say a rose by any other name

C’est la vie

Like LM said there will ALWAYS be someone from your past waiting in the wings to remind you of the dumb, silly, embarrassing ISH you did umpteen years ago.

i think a name change can give you a do over depending on the circumstances. does the name change involve a move to where a lot of people don’t know you? if not then i doubt it would help matters. i think i agree with the idea that people just need to be more careful with protecting their image and brand. too many people live for today without thinking about how their actions might affect them in future.

btw, i never knew airtran used to be valuejet. you learn something new everyday. not that i ever flew airtran. they don’t fly to nashville.

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