What Does Your E-mail Address Say About You?

Friday, November 19, 2010

What's in an @name? Alexandra Petri, a Washington Post columnist and a blogger with ComPost, thinks that your email address says a lot about you.  She is joined by a panel of distinguished Brian Lehrer Show guests with retro email addresses who defend their digital identities: Doug Muzzio, professor of political science at Baruch College and host of "City Talk" on CUNY/TV; Siva Vaidhyanathan, associate professor of media studies and law at the University of Virginia; and Jami Floyd, broadcast journalist, legal analyst for cable and network news, and blogger at It's A Free Country.

Are you an email holdout? Defend your @compuserve, @aol, @mindspring... And does someone's email address say anything about them? Do you judge according to their @?


Jami Floyd, Doug Muzzio, Alexandra Petri and Siva Vaidhyanathan

Comments [36]

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Oct. 03 2011 04:31 AM

I dumped AOL in 1998 due to horrible spams. Went to Mindspring and loved it since. Have problems with modem on occassion due to the string connection on my tin cans.

Own an XO, loaded and use linux on my there!

Nov. 19 2010 11:20 PM
Robin from New Jersey

Ms. Petri is just too, too hip though isn't she? I was completely insulted by her remarks re: mindspring, even though I realize she and her thoughts are totally unimportant. But alas, she did get to me. It would be interesting to know on what stunning data she bases her remarks about a mindspring address denoting a homeless person. Maybe she can log in regularly on NPR and advise all the rest of us on what's cool and okay and what isn't.

Nov. 19 2010 01:51 PM
Frank Ostrander from Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY

I've basically had this account since 1988. I started with a 300-baud modem! Actually my address was my nine-digit account number until about 1995. And since AOL finally abandoned "classic" compuserve, I've had free pop3 e-mail.

I do have a GMail account which I use as an archive.

Nov. 19 2010 01:49 PM
Adele from Brooklyn

Regarding Facebook wanting to be our everything in terms of communication, I was one of the women whose Facebook account was randomly closed by Facebook for being a "fake." Two day later I just get a terse email saying "sorry--it was a glitch." If Facebook thinks that I would trust my email, text, etc. to them after that episode, they are nuts. I will stick with my other email accounts that don't suddenly decide that I am not real.

Nov. 19 2010 01:17 PM
Connie from nj

I agree with Debbie from NYC; "Why fix it if it ain't broke?". I have a hotmail address. I also have a 13-year old car, and most of my clothes are not this year's fashions. If you want to judge me by that, go ahead, it's not my problem.

It's a truism that new is better. I don't buy it.

Nov. 19 2010 12:36 PM
Laurie Spiegel from lower personhattan

Gmail has the problems of not being private and of not having one's email archive including attachments on one's own computer.

I'd be very wary of facebook as an email provider. They have a mixed and controversial track record when it comes to privacy as well as requiring web access.

And there are already too many non-intercommunicative proprietary web-based messaging services out there - FaceBook, YouTube, LinkedIn, eBay etc., each requiring a different login to access. Too much overhead for the user.

Nov. 19 2010 12:00 PM
Alex Marshall from NYC

I've had this address since 1986 -- the great advantage is that it apparently flies under the spammers' radar, compared for example with my "Up-to-date" address.

Nov. 19 2010 12:00 PM
Brad Spear from Pelham, NY

I have a aol, yahoo and gmail account with the same name, my name with a "z" in front

Nov. 19 2010 11:58 AM
BK from NJ

For the people who change email all the time don't complain when you don't hear from your friends. Who cares about email? I have the same hotmail for 15 years with just my name @ Easy.
The people who feel a need to change every 6 months are probably the ones who sit in line for 12 hours overnight toget the newest iPhone because it has 2 new features. Gee great. By the way I type this from my iPhone and I am 35 so I am not a relic.

Nov. 19 2010 11:58 AM
Melissa from crown heights

I keep my hotmail account for all of my spam mail and bill paying. I have my gmail for more personal/business stuff. Though most people do know my hotmail account and I tend to still give that out.

Nov. 19 2010 11:58 AM
lauren from asbury park

i probably qualify for most email addresses ever. i have my personal email, then my 'junk email' (the one i use when i know the website im signing up for is going to spam me) then i have by business email and business ' junk' email , and then i have an email for every one of my clients and websites (i am an internet marketer / web designer) so i probably have over 40 email addresses.

Nov. 19 2010 11:58 AM
Melissa from crown heights

I keep my hotmail account for all of my spam mail and bill paying. I have my gmail for more personal/business stuff. Though most people do know my hotmail account and I tend to still give that out.

Nov. 19 2010 11:58 AM
Debbie from NYC

I see nothing wrong with Hotmail. Why fix it if it ain't broke?

Nov. 19 2010 11:56 AM

What Alexandra Petri said about Yahoo e-mail users being unreliable -- I'm afraid there is some truth to this assertion! My Yahoo account has been hacked into a number of times. I complained to Yahoo, which took no action I could see. After near-strangers got ticked off at me for sending them iPhone come-ons via Yahoo, I finally conceded defeat. I use my gmail and Bookpod e-mail accounts now. Farewell, Yahoo! -- I happened to blog about Yahoo this week:

Nov. 19 2010 11:56 AM

I have both my original AOL account and a gmail account. I use them differently. I find both useful for different reasons. I see no reason to change. But I'm ready to migrate should AOL bite the dust.

Nov. 19 2010 11:55 AM
Dina from Brooklyn

I have 4 email addresses. Yahoo, Gmail, my own URL and work. Personally the one I use the least is GMAIL. I really don't like the grouping and way they manage the emails. I don't understand why people prefer it.
Yahoo is great for quickly getting email and my own email from my personal URL tends to get a lot of spam.
In any case, different emails work for different groups and types of emails.

Nov. 19 2010 11:55 AM
Laurie Spiegel from lower personhattan

I maintain several email addresses for several purposes, swept into a single inbox on my computer which runs a powerful email client and can easily filter them. Some IMAP some POP, a straight forward with my name, a cute nickname, special purpose for various activities. Different accounts have different properties and limitations and at minimum it's always wise to have a backup.

Nov. 19 2010 11:55 AM
RAS from Northern NJ

I have three email addresses that I use depending on use and the "identity" I want to project. Generally I use my gmail account (with my real name in the address) for most personal correspondence. I use my work email, obviously for work, but where I want to project my identity as an academic, since it is an "edu" address. I tend to use it also in situations (like when dealing with my child's school) where I want respect (say, from a condescending principal) because my tag has my position and PhD in my signature. I do actually also have a yahoo account--which I reserve for shopping and giving out for marketing requests. I haven't used an aol account since the mid-90's. Incidentally, I'm 40, female and a reasonably tech-savvy though philosophically, occasionally neo-Luddite sociologist.

Nov. 19 2010 11:55 AM

doesn't gmail read your email to sell info to marketers

Nov. 19 2010 11:55 AM
John from Inwood

I use my decade-old Hotmail account for junk mail. Whenever I buy anything online, the retailer gets that address. Therefore I receive virtually zero spam in my Gmail account. Doesn't anyone else do that?

Nov. 19 2010 11:55 AM
Asad from Brooklyn

With the advent of limited access to e-mail and social network services as a marketing tool, with limited access equaling "cool", I think people took great pains not to screw up their one chance at joining in the club. I remember clamoring for a Gmail invite from my Silicon Valley friends who were on the cutting edge, and consciously making the choice not to use my goofy AOL username because, somehow, the at the end of this address meant something. That being said, my mother who only recently started texting still clings to her AOL address because its what she knows.

Nov. 19 2010 11:55 AM
Steph from brooklyn

I actually have a hotmail account.. and it's my junk email account. basically to receive alerts from stores where I shop or various cultural events, and the like...

Nov. 19 2010 11:54 AM
Howard from Brooklyn

I still have an AOL account, although I only moved to a free account last year because I find that too many people have it since I have been a AOL person since it started.

Nov. 19 2010 11:54 AM

I am still using a JUNO account because most of my work is freelance and based on old connections, I am afraid that if I change people won't actually be able to find me.

Nov. 19 2010 11:53 AM
capper from ny

What is "hotmail" supposed to convey???

Nov. 19 2010 11:53 AM
Brad from New Rochelle, NY

I pay a small fee each month for my account even though I use Verizon Fios. I am 56 and it is just too much trouble to change. I do not use Facebook and never will. I am also NOT homeless and probably make more money in a year than you do!

Nov. 19 2010 11:53 AM

The ONLY thing that makes sense is to have separate email addresses for separate uses (career, personal, revenue, specific pastimes,...). AND Yahoo is very good for setting up a quick email account. ergo, her blanket dismissal of Yahoo makes no sense.

Nov. 19 2010 11:52 AM
sel from brooklyn

I had a friend years ago who thought he would never use his email address but got one anyone. He decided his handle would be "meathole@..." Needless to say he was really embarrassed when a professor asked for his email address.

Nov. 19 2010 11:51 AM
nat from Brooklyn

I thought Facebook was too intrusive with privacy before, but this new set up is even worse.

Facebook wants to be the central routing point for all of your communications (except phone - for now). They will keep all of this together for five years, though probably forever. Your private communications is their main product why would they delete it? They certainly have the legal right to keep it, and every piece of data they collect on you forever.

Facebook is positioning itself as a monopoly. It is also one of the world's largest data silos. The question is, do you trust Facebook (or whoever owns that data in twenty years) to responsibly guard your information in perpetuity?

Nov. 19 2010 11:51 AM
Steph from Brooklyn

Emails are such a pain to change. Some years ago, I decided to take a much more administratively easy approach, got a domain that consists of my name (i.e., and I will never have to change it again. Use Google Apps email, and life is good...

Nov. 19 2010 11:50 AM
abdul from brooklyn

I think people with Yahoo or Hotmail email accounts are generally passive and settle for crap. Those 2 offer very little in terms of forwarding, pop access for email clients, if you're still hanging on to them I agree you are not really to be taken seriously and/or trusted. :)

I keep my yahoo only for spam (i.e. things i have to provide my email address to sign up for, but wouldnt dare give my real email address out for)

Nov. 19 2010 11:50 AM
Johnny from dirty jerz

Just when you thought you handed over all your privacy to facebook, go further! Now facebook can monitor and sell your private conversations, dreams, trials, tribulations!

Nov. 19 2010 11:50 AM

what's wrong with @yahoo??

Nov. 19 2010 11:49 AM
Laura from brooklyn, NY

OK. I admit i still use my hotmail. BUT! this is only for when i'm filling out forms / signing up to a new site and am afraid of being spammed... i've had it since hotmail first started... but i see no need to get rid of it because it serves it's purpose... catching all my spam! :D

Nov. 19 2010 11:49 AM from large box

As a homeless person squatting in a box, Ms. Petri's comments are deeply offensive to me.

Nov. 19 2010 11:48 AM

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