In November, NYTimes Magazine published an interesting article on one man’s exploration of the various hidden backstories, hopes, dreams, and regrets behind people’s passwords. You can read the full article at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/19/magazine/the-secret-life-of-passwords.html, with video interviews included. If you’re feeling TL;DR, here’s the abridged version: Surprise surprise, not many people actually take password suggestions from password generators. In fact, many Internet users disregard recommended guidelines for creating complex and secure passwords in favor of entering something that will be easy to remember. Ian Urbina, however, looks at this phenomenon through an anthropological lens, recounting various interviews discussing the motivations behind seemingly innocuous passwords.
The stories in and of themselves are fascinating, from passwords remembering dates of miscarriages to high school track records and everything in between. But for me, it’s less about the stories and more about why it happens. We’ve often talked in class about the potential of being “plugged in” too often for our own good, and that in some ways we sacrifice some of our humanity in exchange for online entertainment. However, we have to remember that in the end, humans are the ones behind the screen. And while we’ve created a creature of its own devices, we always seem to find ways to slip in bits and pieces of our humanity into the cracks. While it has the power to augment traditional social behaviors in unprecedented ways, I don’t believe it’s possible for computers to completely erase every instinct we have. We just have to keep in mind what priorities we have as social beings as we move forward in technological innovation.