Brexit forced me to change my identity

… but I’m OK with it.

A few days ago I sat in an airport lounge in Gatwick, waiting for our flight to Florida. I had finished a diet Coke and was chewing on a piece of yoghurt-covered honeycomb (which was delicious, FYI) when I read a news article about Brexit that stunned me.

Europe dumps 300,000 UK-owned .EU domains into the Brexit bin

A year to the day before the UK leaves the EU, the European Commission announced that all .eu domains registered to a UK address would be dropped.

Horrified at the thought of losing my andys.eu domain name (and with it, my primary email address of 8 years) I tweeted out to EURid – the organisation that manages .eu domain names.

Sadly, they confirmed the news was true and that they are trying to safeguard the domains of existing registrants.

In the beginning – letting go of Shellam

Since I was adopted in 1993, I have been proud to be known as Andy Shellam. My identity is very important to me and as a techie/nerd/geek, owning a “vanity” email address and website seemed obvious.

When the .eu extension was launched in 2005, I immediately registered andyshellam.eu. A few years later – in 2010 – I shortened this to andys.eu.

In August 2012, I married James – my partner of 5 years. However, neither of us wanted to let go of our surnames, and they were too long together to double-barrel. It took nearly 2 years to come to a compromise. I would take his surname and we would both take Shellam as a middle name.

And so, in May 2014, I became Andy Heathershaw.

I registered the most obvious domain name for my new identity, but under the new .uk extension – andyheathershaw.uk. This was to be a “business card” website to promote my CV and allow recruiters to contact me. I would still maintain andys.eu as my blog website (you may remember “The Andy Sanc’tree”) and my primary email address.

A confused identity

In 2016, I merged my 2 sites together under the andyheathershaw.uk domain and kept andys.eu only for my email address. It only recently occurred to me that my email address and website were on different domains.

If I get an email from somebody – work or personal – that I want I find out more about, I will go to www.<the bit after the @ in their email address>.

If somebody did this with my email address, they wouldn’t get www.andys.eu, but www.andyheathershaw.uk (thanks to a redirect, but it could still be a little confusing.)

The more I looked, the more I realised I didn’t have a single identity online:

  • Website andyheathershaw.uk
  • E-mail address: @andys.eu
  • Twitter handle: @Pandy06269
  • Github handle: Pandy06269
  • Facebook handle: andy.shellam

A new beginning

Following the realisation that I don’t have a single identity online (and I don’t feel particularly hopeful about EURid’s chances of safeguarding existing domain registrations) I decided this is the perfect time for a new start.

Brexit is a year away. If I register a new domain name now, I would have time to switch over my website and e-mail address, update my site’s listings in Google and update my e-mail address with every website and business I deal with regularly.

And so… on 31st March 2018, I registered a new domain name and tweeted a reply back to EURid:

A few days later, the new domain was live and serving both my website visitors and my e-mails.

Welcome to…

andysh.uk

It should be obvious what the “andy” means. I love how the domain name also incorporates both of my previous identities: “s” for Shellam and “h” for Heathershaw. It is also short and snappy like andys.eu, which makes it easy for reciting over the phone or in-store.

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll notice my handle is now @andysh_uk, and my Github one will soon follow suit.

Unfortunately, there is someone called “Andy Shuk” on Facebook, whose profile the handle “andysh.uk” goes to – so I’ve changed mine to andy.heathershaw.

Conclusion

Losing the rights to own a .eu domain name was a consequence of Brexit that I certainly didn’t see coming.

Yet I’m really glad it did. It gave me chance to reflect on who I am, what’s important to me and how I want to be represented in my various online identities and social media profiles.

Identity is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately during our adoption process. The Internet as it is today didn’t exist back when I was adopted. Social media hadn’t been invented yet.

When our future children are old enough to be thinking about their own identity, there may be something else that we don’t know about yet – just like the Internet and social media weren’t for my parents back in 1993.

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