Monthly Archives: April 2013

Remember When You Didn’t Have to Create a Profile Everywhere You Go?

There is a support group for people who sign up for too many online profiles.  The group meets once a week in the basement of an old church.  I went to last week’s meeting.

The group is led by a woman who at one point held profiles from 157 different websites.  “Each account had a unique password with at least one uppercase letter, one number, and one symbol,” she said to me as she introduced herself.  “This was a great source of pride to me.”  Then one day she couldn’t remember one of the passwords, and she had a nervous breakdown, and had to spend some time in an institution, where she was heavily medicated and had to re-learn how to say her own name without numbers or underscores.  She eventually became rehabilitated enough to go into a group home and now her responsibilities are leading the weekly meetings and refilling the reservoir on the Keurig coffee dispenser.

We sat in a circle and one of the attendees, a young man, began to speak.

“I had a Google account and a Facebook account and a Twitter account.  Then I joined LinkedIn, even though I didn’t have a job, and I had to borrow a coat and tie and pressed shirt from a friend for the profile photo, and because the t-shirt was mine you could still see the dinosaur design through the white shirt I borrowed.

“And then I joined Pinterest even though I had nothing to pin, and Goodreads even though I haven’t read a book in years.  Frankly, I had thought they stopped making books.

“Then there was a site that advertised free music, and a site that counted calories.”  He tapped his abdomen as he says this.  “I had to pick a username and password for all these accounts, and I always picked the same password:  RoseBud.   I thought I was being smart.  Turned out I wasn’t so smart, because it was the same username and password that I use for my online banking, and my identity was stolen.  Luckily, I didn’t have any money.  So I deleted all these accounts and now I’m much happier.  I even tried to buy a book, but I had deleted my Amazon account.”

Next a young woman spoke.  “I was on all those sites and apps that he was on, and more.  Except I used a different username and password for each one.  I was like a secret agent, walking the Earth with a stack of drivers’ licenses, trying to keep track of multiple identities.  I didn’t know who I was.  I created a document in Microsoft Word to keep track of all my usernames and passwords, but then I got worried that a hacker would be able to find the document.  So I encrypted the usernames and passwords with a code of my own making.  But I had to keep the code somewhere, and I was afraid to keep it on my computer.  So I wrote the code with a pen and paper and hid it inside of a box of Cracklin’ Oat Bran.”

Suddenly all the eyes were on me.  It was time to share my story.  But I didn’t know what to say.  I clearly didn’t have a problem.  I was in attendance only because I needed a topic for my blog, a blog that I access with a password that I change every week because I’m worried that someone will hack my account and start posting unfunny blog posts.  These people were the crazy ones.  Not me.  So I finished my cup of coffee and said that I wasn’t ready to talk about myself.  And they smiled, and thanked me, and said to keep coming.

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