Having an unpopular name can cause lots of problems in life, from schoolyard taunts to endless bureaucratic misspellings. And now, researchers have discovered another worry for the unfortunately-named: online dating rejection.
Judy Mandelbaum of Open Salon reports on a recent study of German online dating habits. Study authors Jochen E. Gebauer, Mark R. Leary, and Wiebke Neberich studied daters with awful names, merely unpopular names, and actually popular ones. They found that "across all studies, negatively named individuals were more neglected by other online-daters, as indicated by fewer first visits to their dating profiles." And that's not all:
This form of neglect arguably mirrors a name-based life history of neglect, discrimination, prejudice, or even ostracism. Supporting this argument, neglect mediated the relation between negative names and lower self-esteem, more frequent smoking, and less education. These results are consistent with the name-based interpersonal neglect hypothesis: Negative names evoke negative interpersonal reactions, which in turn influence people's life outcomes for the worse.
That's right: giving your kids shitty names will destroy their lives. Of course, Dutch epidemiologist Taco B.M. Monster and Houston wine merchant Monsterville Horton IV (IV!!) seem to be doing all right for themselves. But we bet if they tried to go online under their real names, they'd have trouble getting dates. One interesting wrinkle in Gebauer et al's research is the specific names that were stigmatized — in Germany, people apparently hate the name Kevin. They allegedly associate it with Kevin McAllister, the kid from Home Alone, and assume all Kevins are dumb. The Home Alone kid seems pretty savvy to me, but apparently Germans disagree. Gebauer (in an interview translated by Mandelbaum) explains the source of their distaste:
This probably comes from the fact that people with less education experience enhanced enthusiasm for TV shows [ed. or movies, I guess] and call their kids after them. When parents possess little education, their children also frequently have less opportunity to get any. At this point, the effect has nothing more to do with first names. But people who encounter a Kevin automatically suspect him of being poorly educated. This can lead to additional negative consequences for a person's life.
Fortunately, online dating is an opportunity for folks with crappy names to hide them. So if your name is Buttface Cheeseweasel (or, in Germany, Kevin), do yourself a favor and just call yourself tim1234 on OkCupid. By the time your new ladyfriend finds out your real name, hopefully she'll already be in love with you.
How first names influence our dating choices [Open Salon]