So you want to change your Twitter handle.
When you got it two years ago, @PlankingGuy was funny, but today you get quizzical looks. @SexxyFoxxyMama was okay in college, but not on your new business cards. Or you realized @ERMAHGERD520 was a bit too hard for people to spell after all. You could just get a new account, but reacquiring your Following would be a pain, and you’d lose all your tweets.
Luckily, it’s very easy to update your handle. From your page, find the gear icon at the top right, click Settings, and it’ll be the first text box you encounter, labeled “Username.” If your new name is available, you can change it, and instantly you will be @NewName, without losing a single follower.
The problem is this opens some strange loopholes in the Twitterverse. Your new tweets will come from @NewName. Your old ones will stay on your profile, rebranded with @NewName. But any tweet or retweet you were mentioned in will still be under your @OldName, and will no longer be linked to your account. Conversations will suddenly become very one-sided, as all the messages from the second party disappear, leaving only your own. This is because mentions in tweets are based on text, not unique IDs, so Twitter will not change your friend’s tweet just because you changed your name. Instead, the link will go to a 404 page… that is, until someone snaps up your old handle.
If you want to protect your previous username, create a new account with a new email address, and grab your @OldName. Your profile will not repopulate with mentions or previous tweets, but if someone clicks on a mention of @OldName, it will link back to this second account. You then have two options: continue using the profile as a second persona, or just post something like “I changed names; follow me @NewName instead” and leave it as an empty account.
Although all traces of mentions under your @OldName will have disappeared from your profile, they still linger in your “Notifications” tab. Since a regular download of your Twitter data won’t scoop this up, you can archive all this activity by opening the Notifications page, right-clicking anywhere on it, choosing “Save As” with the format of “Web Page, Complete,” and this will create a duplicate of the page stored locally on your own computer.
As you can see, even though changing your handle itself is rather easy, the alteration leaves a messy wake behind it. Ultimately, you are trading your Twitter past for a better identity in the present. Going back to your old name can be just as tricky, so make sure it’s the right decision for you. And this time, pick a name that will look good five years from now.