Along with your pin number, an email address is the collection of numbers and letters you’ll type more than anything else in your life. If you’ve ever used the Internet, chances are you’ll have one, and unlike your card details, it’s something you choose yourself.
Indeed, perhaps you didn’t realise when you first typed out your email address that what you pick as a prefix could provide a fascinating psychological insight into your personality. We spoke to Graham Jones, an award-winning Internet psychologist, to find out what different kinds of email addresses say about their owners.
First name first - i.e. ‘email@example.com’
This suggests a business-like approach - someone who wants a portable email to take anywhere. These people realise that they can have a permanent email address no matter where they work or what they do.
Surname first - i.e. ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’
Suggests the person went to public school or comes from a very formal background. They might not connect too well with others. Plus they will probably get emails addressed to their surname – like ‘Dear Smith’ - which will annoy them!
Comedy name or a pun - i.e. ‘SmilesBetter@yahoo.co.uk’
This provides a signal that the individual is relaxed and up for a laugh. They are probably secure and confident people, but don’t realise the impact of the name on their career or how they are perceived in the workplace.
Cutesy - i.e. ‘email@example.com’
The effect is similar to a ‘comedy’ prefix, only perhaps exaggerated. To some, “fluffybunny” or something similar is a term of endearment, but to others it implies some kind of sexual overtone or that the individual is childish. If the prefix is inappropriate this could be an indication of self-centredness and lack of thought about the recipient.
Self-aggrandising - i.e. ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’
This could suggest the individual is trying to confirm their self-identity and show the world who they really are. Possibly these people have insecurities.
A nickname - i.e. ‘email@example.com’
Nicknames often only mean something to a small number of individuals, rendering them meaningless to anyone else. Again, it is a sign that the individual is focused more on themselves than on the recipients of their emails.
Job-related - i.e. ‘jsmithHR@yahoo.co.uk’
Quite often these people want to confirm to their customers or employers the kind of job they do. They may see this as competitive and think it helps them stand them out; but it suggests they might have a weak personal brand too.
Hobby-related - i.e. ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’
Rather like job-related emails, this type of address symbolises someone trying to confirm what their interests are in case someone doesn’t know. This can be quite limiting however. If your hobby is stamp collecting and your prefix is a specific term like ‘firstdaycover’, this will mean something to other stamp collectors, but to the rest of the world it is meaningless.
Song-titles - i.e. ‘email@example.com’
This shows a fun individual, but they don’t appear to care much about the recipient - who won't glean much information about the sender from their prefix. They are probably self-focused.
Random - i.e. ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’
These people often simply pick the random suggestions of email services. Those who accept these are not thinking about the other people in email communication, nor are they considering what it says about themselves. Purely a functional approach.
You’ve had lots of email addresses
Those who constantly update their addresses are doing so partly because they just change throughout life. Their jobs change, their likes and interests change, so they update their prefix to reflect those changes. However there is also an element of what psychologists call 'locus of control' in this. People who constantly switch may have an ‘external’ locus of control – which means they believe their environment or other external factors help shape their lives.”
You’ve always had one email address
In contrast, people who have an internal locus of control will probably set up an email address which does not change over time because they feel “in charge”. They control their life.
You have different email accounts for different things
Some people have different accounts because they think this gives them control over their life. They feel they can separate and compartmentalise work from hobby emails for instance. The reality is that this leads to complications as they have to monitor different email systems – providing additional stress and workload.