My husband, who on Twitter is @cnco, recently started getting a strangely increased number of @-reply messages, in Spanglish. Things like “My amores lindos @cnco" and “I NEED A GROUP CHAT WITH @CNCO…PLEASE PEOPLE HELP A GIRL OUT,” and “@cnco what makes your favorite chica?” So he googled “cnco” and found out that it was the name of a nascent Latino boy band, five guys who had just won a Univision reality show competition and then been turned into a new product, CNCO. When the world — or the small subset of it that cares about Spanish language boy bands — became aware of them, they immediately started tweeting at them, as you do, not realizing that the handle belonged not to the boy band CNCO but to a middle-aged developer/musician in Brooklyn, who doesn’t sing or dance and whose Spanish is marginal at best.
It was amusing at first, but quickly became a nuisance. Still, at first he just blocked the press and PR outlets.
“I mean come on, they should know better,” he complained. “But I don’t want to be mean to some little teenybopper.”
Soon, however, he had to abandon that policy. There were just too many teenage girls @cnco-ing too often.
“I mean, they’re tweeting at me AND at @CNCOmusic, which is the band’s actual handle. Why would they be doing that?!”
The truth is that while the band uses the handle @CNCOmusic, rather than @cnco, they promote the hastag #cnco. Twitter isn’t exactly full of brain surgeons, especially teenage ones. Heck, you don’t have to be particularly young or stupid to not know the difference between a handle and a hashtag, plenty of adults whose mastery of Twitter isn’t quite on point don’t get the difference (like probably those PR and press people and the social media division of Sony Music Colombia, which tweeted at him yesterday, despite that Sony Music Latin is their record label. In other words, all the people who are supposed to be creating the handles and hashtags since they’re creating the boy bands). And teenage girls in love will just blanket the world with anything they think might reach their heartthrobs. If Twitter had been around when I was a teenager, I’d probably have been tweeting @sting and @JT (for John Taylor of Duran Duran, not James Taylor, though I think he also went by JT. See how confusing it is?) before I bothered to check who actually had those handles, especially if I saw other people doing it. i clearly remember what it’s like when your hormones are raging with so much desperate pop star infatuation that any potential connection with its object must be attempted – I mean HELP A GIRL OUT.
Thus the @replies keep coming, cluttering up Damon’s feed, which he, as someone who actually uses Twitter, finds pretty annoying.
“The worst thing is that everybody hates the name,” he says.
It’s true. A lot of the tweets at him are saying how stupid the name is, or defending it, or defending the band in spite of the name. It’s also supposed to be spoken as "C N C O,” not “cinco,” which, come to think of it, really isn’t a good name for a band, especially one that will sound kind of different in two different languages.
So why doesn’t he just give up the handle, you might ask? He could actually just substitute a new one for the old one and keep the same account, without losing his followers, so it wouldn’t be that big a deal. Still, he’s kind of hoping that either people will stop tweeting at him when they finally figure out that @cnco isn’t CNCO, or, failing that, that Sony Music Latin will just pay him to take it off his hands.
My take is that the name “cnco” wasn’t really anything significant for Damon when it first came into being. “Cinco” was a nickname that his best friend called him “for maybe five minutes,” because it was the speed dial number for Damon on the friend’s phone: five, which became cinco. Once he got over the fact that he wasn’t number one, Damon decided that he liked the name. Right around then, the internet came along, and he needed usernames, as you do. He couldn’t get “cinco,” but “cnco” was available. When he joined Twitter, he used @cnco for his handle, and he got the domain cncocnco.com in order to have a blog there (cnco.com was taken by a CPA firm in Illinois called C N & Co. I bet their traffic is up a lot). So it’s not like the moniker actually meant much of anything to anyone, at any time, exactly. And yet, once you take possession of a name or a nickname or a handle, once you start to identify yourself with it, even just in your own head, you get attached. Not just to the name, but to the identity, the new incarnation of yourself that you see in it. When I asked him how long he’d had the domain, he looked it up.
“2011,” he reported. “That’s how long I’ve been procrastinating doing the blog.”
“You actually posted a bunch of stuff here,” I said, scrolling through it. “Especially in September 2013.”
“Yeah, I did, but…”
Not as much as he had wanted to, or had intended to. He’d also thought about putting out new music under that name. It’s not like those things still can’t happen, but not as cnco.
Sometimes it feels like, by the time we get to this age, we’re changing identities all the time. I personally have already had geek girl, teen Duranie, Stanford student, single 20- to 30-something, aspiring screenwriter, ex-boyfriend’s girlfriend, and traveler of Latin America, among others, and now I’m currently choosing between filmmaker, teacher, sound grunt, writer, game designer, and who knows what else might come along. Even if the old identities don’t really go away, we learn how to let them go, how to let each one get subsumed into the next. Not usually because some boy band takes them away from us, but because we realize that they don’t work to define us any more. It’s not necessarily bad. In part thanks to the haters, Damon is starting to feel like maybe cnco really isn’t such a great name.
Yesterday, when we were talking, he glanced at his watch – it’s an Apple Watch, so he gets Twitter notifications there – and sighed. “I think they must’ve just released a new song.”
Sure enough, his Twitter feed is an onslaught of “gracias @Cnco por darnos tan Buena musica,” and "@CNCO HERMOSA CANCION BENDICIONES" and “muuuyyy linda la entreviistaaa <3 <3 <3 .@CNCO muy linddooo toodo hrmoosooosss” and “It’s my friend’s birthday & all she wants is for u to notice her so plz notice her 🙏🏻 @Cnco.fans on ig 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻”. And so on. And they recently announced they’re going on tour, opening for Ricky Martin, so there’s no chance it’s going to get better.
“The bright side,” he says, “is at least I never got a cnco tattoo.”