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Why Were High School Kids Changing Their Facebook Names?

It’s hard to maintain a professional image online. That’s why high school students used fake names to hide from colleges until recently.

It’s only natural that juniors and seniors in high school — stressed with school, jobs, and college applications — want to blow off a little steam. But in the early years of the 2010s, students also worried that colleges to which they applied might browse their Facebook pages while reviewing admissions packages. While most colleges said they didn’t review high school kids’ social media pages before admission, the senior name changing tradition became hugely popular anyway. By 2012, for example, there were 83 million fake accounts on the social media site.

High school juniors and seniors first starting changing their Facebook names when they thought that college admissions representatives were cruising their pages for admissions red flags. When asked, however, most college admissions officers said they didn’t look through students’ Facebook pages before admitting them, although some mentioned that they did peruse social media before admission.

Read More: How To Use The Facebook App Like a Pro

Whether or not students were really being watched by admissions counselors, they still changed their Facebook names starting in their junior years to be safe. Most of the students simply changed their first names to spellings that weren’t standard. For example, “Amy” was changed to “Aim E.” Other students used nicknames to throw off the college admissions counselors’ trail. The tradition stuck, whether or not students really believed their pages were being considered in their applications.

Name changing for college admissions came to an abrupt halt in October 2014, however, when Facebook implemented its “real name policy.” A person’s real name — defined as a name that would be listed on a credit card, student ID, or driver’s license — was required to be a member of the social networking site. Today, the only way that a Facebook user can use an alternate name on Facebook is to provide specifics of a special need to use a pseudonym. Today’s high school juniors and seniors likely will not qualify: hiding from college admissions counselors is not a reason likely to be accepted by Facebook.