almost never always ask me about my preferred social media handle — which is @ocdustino for those of you who neglected to read the title of this post — where it came from, what it means, why I have it tattooed on my left ass cheek, etc. And with it being my twitterversary week (yes, that’s a thing; no, I’m not dating anyone. I fail to see the connection) it seemed like a good time to explore the legend of @ocdustino. Buckle in, cadets, you’re in for the sort of history lesson they don’t give you in school. Except maybe homeschool if I homeschool my future kids and I’m really hungover/scrambling for some filler topics that day.
The year was 1867, I was a freshman in college, and the lightbulb had just recently been invented, which meant that we could use our computers indoors, any time of the day or night! This quickly led to the invention of something called AOL Instant Messenger (or AIM for short, because you know if your acronym needs an acronym, you’re doing it right). AIM was primarily invented as a means for people to post their favorite Brand New/Something Corporate lyrics or disparaging passive-aggressive comments about their boy/girlfriend, but quickly evolved into a sort of instant messaging service that was kind of like a two-person internet chatroom, but somehow not as creepy as an actual internet chatroom. Meeting and then getting captured/raped/killed by strangers from the internet wasn’t a thing at the time (craigslist hadn’t been invented yet), but because superheroes/secret identities were still really popular (our Batman was Michael Keaton — ha! Can you believe that? Michael Keaton!) everyone used pseudonyms (known as “screen names”) to effectively hide their true identities from strangers, while also expressing their interests to those same strangers. Screen names like “CheerKick44”, “Platypussy02”, “ExtraExtraSloppy”, “GoldfishDanzer”, “Star19Catcher”, “DivaQueen02” were the norm (fun fact: I only made two of those up). Pretty rad nicknames right? Your screen name said a lot about who you were, and you wanted it to be cool, concise, and clever. With some numbers at the end like the year you graduated or your jersey number from high school athletics because someone probably already had the version of the screen name you wanted that didn’t have numbers.
Okay back to college freshman Dustin, whose screen name was the entirely too boring: OtterbeinDCH (Otterbein being the name of the small liberal arts college I went to, and DCH being my initials). Blah! Though the school name/your name combination was a pretty socially-accepted naming convention at the time, I knew I could do better! But what? I didn’t have a defining physical or personality trait (ObnoxiousDustin was already taken, I’m sure), I wasn’t good enough at sports to ever get a jersey number that was more consistent than my coach saying “why don’t you throw on that musty one in the corner so we can scrimmage”, and I was only the normal amount of sloppy. What to do??
Well as part of a school-mandated language credit (welcome to liberal arts college, boys and girls), I was enrolled in Spanish 101 (fun fact: in Español, 101 translates to: 101) and we were watching our way through a Spanish soap opera called Destinos. College freshman being the spectacularly creative bunch they are, it didn’t take long for people in my class to start calling me Dustino. As my first nickname that didn’t in some way reference a jockstrap or a vagina, I was thrilled, so I went with it. Or rather, everyone else went with it.
Now during this same time, I was doing a lot of those “beginning of a new set of classes” introductions, wherein you’re typically required to state your name, where you’re from, and two facts about yourself (sometimes in Spanish). When you’re at a small liberal arts college in Columbus, Ohio, saying you’re from the town of Columbus, Ohio isn’t a great conversation starter. So I started informing people that I was from Palm Springs, California (where I was born and lived for several years) and my family later moved to Columbus, Ohio. This made for much more interesting interactions with my new classmates…once you got past the “well why the hell did you move to Ohio?! hardy har har” joke that every single person inevitably makes, as if the teenage firstborn of a family has any say in where his family moves. Also, because it was the early 2000s, a show called The OC was VERY popular (we’re talking like, Game of Thrones popular…but with more sexy teens, fewer dragons), and because the average American student’s grasp on US geography is tenuous at best, everyone associated my birthplace of Palm Springs with Orange County (about as far apart as Columbus and Cincinnati, for you Ohio folks who were wondering). Thus, the infamous “OC” was added to the “Dustino” and voila, ocdustino was born (I was also attending Otterbein College, another iteration of OC in my life). It was completely unique to me, concise, easy to explain to people without having to write it down for them, and didn’t have any pesky numbers at the end cluttering it up. And as an added nugget, I’ve always considered myself the tiniest bit obsessive compulsive, so the fact that OCD made it in there has always amused me.
My ocdustino moniker would travel with me from AIM to MySpace to Flickr to Friendster (just kidding I never had a friendster) to Formspring to YouTube to Skype and eventually back to MySpace again (newly redesigned! #yawn), always guaranteeing that I’d have my unique user ID available to me as each new fad of a network came and went. As they say in the auto-repair world: if it ain’t broke, we’re still charging you labor to take a look.
Several years later a smart, probably-Jewish, boy would steal-ish an idea from a pair of less-smart-by-comparison, probably German twin boys (thereby fully making up for both World Wars and the atrocities therein), and The Facebook would become the social network that literally everyone in the world wanted to join, and it would lift the veil of made-up internet usernames in favor of something so drastic, so appalling, so extreme that it had literally never been thought of before: our actual names. And so, ocdustino became Dustin Heveron, and the age of internet anonymity came to an end (except for comment boards and internet chatrooms, which are just as creepy now as they were in the 90s).
But like all good stories, this one has a small twist at the end…for on March 12, 2009 — almost four years to the day since Dustin Heveron sent his first facebook friend request — a girl Dustin liked signed up for an account on a rapidly growing social network called twitter. So, wanting to impress her, Dustin also signed up for this new social network. All he needed to get started was…a username…
And the rest, as Natasha Bedingfield would say, is still unwritten.
PS If you like social media so much, why don’t you marry it? Or if you live in one of those radical right-wing states that doesn’t allow inter-technology marriage, read some of my older posts about social media here (what the heck is Vine??), here (hey remember that Kony guy lol), and here (the 9 phrases you need to stop using in your bio). Also, despite changes over the years, comments sections are still a great place to leave anonymous hatred, so feel free to list all the things you don’t like about me down there. Cheers!
PPS My Xanga. Oh God, my Xanga. I totally forgot about that iteration of ocdustino till just now. I don’t have the self confidence to link to it, but…wow. Read at your own risk, and try not to hold it against me.