Sunday, August 7, 2011

Please Pass the Word

I think it's hilarious, in a non-funny sort of way, that we're told to use a different password for each account we have. Clearly, it was some twenty-five-year-old who thought that one up. Who can remember even three passwords? Not I, although I could have, years ago.

I had a file named PASSWORDS in my email for a while ... until I couldn't get into my email because I didn't have the password. Mister Google so seldom asks for it that I had simply forgotten it. Now it's all written down in the back pages of my desk calendar, except for the ones that are written down ... elsewhere. Probably.

A couple years ago, I got a letter from my bank. It said someone had been caught phishing in my account, and so I should change my password and, in fact, change the password of any other accounts that might have the same password. "Might," indeed. At that time, I used the same password for everything.

Now I have a different password for every account, and there are fifteen, at a quick glance. I voted for Gulfport for the Best of the Road competition from Rand McNally. There's a password I'll never use again. I'm voting for SHAMc – the Safety Harbor Art and Music Center – so they'll get a ton of money from Pepsi-Cola which, by the way, when its letters are rearranged, spells Episcopal. I pay my bills online, so there are all those passwords. So some I'll use again, and some I won't, but when I need them, I need them, so I have to keep track of them.

Today is my Uncle Eddie's birthday, except that he died on January 1 of this year, so it's no more his eighty-sixth birthday than yesterday was Lucille Ball's hundredth.

I know it's his birthday because Facebook said so. I went over to his Wall and behold! there are birthday greetings for him. One is from his great-nephew, who says Uncle Eddie has joined his late siblings, but another is from a Nicolazzo in Italy who may or may not be related, but who clearly doesn't know Uncle Eddie, um, transitioned.

A friend from my hometown in rural New York moved to an even more rural place in Montana, and he started dying of lung cancer. His wife got on his Facebook page and kept us abreast of his condition, and when he died, she posted it, and we all responded. It actually was touching. It was like being at the wake without having to take time off work and pay for a plane ticket to Montana, and a rental car, and a hotel room. Ah, yes, it was virtually like being there. Hm.

And so now I'm thinking that when we die, we not only live on in people's hearts and minds, but on Facebook, too. Unless your Last Will and Testament includes the pertinent passwords, your Wall will stand forever.

I'm not sure I want that, but on the other hand, it would be a sort of legacy, wouldn't it? I don't have children to carry on whatever dysfunction I'd have given them, so I'll have to settle for everything I've splatted onto the Internet. I have a blog with all my painted cars on it. That will just sit there, unchanging, while I'm off trying to learn to play the harp and walk with wings at the same time.

Now, I wouldn't necessarily want all the LOLs my Friends have posted on Facebook to remain with us forever, but my photo albums? Sure. Why not? I'd love for a great-great-great-niece to stumble upon the photos of mailboxes I've painted, and pine for the great-great-great-aunt she never had a chance to meet and love. One of my cousins posted a bunch of photos from the early fifties, of our parents (see above), and it's wonderful. We all get to leave comments and argue over who's who. It's almost like we're in the same room. Almost.

Facebook, Picasa, Flickr – these are all good ways to preserve photos, and everyone can see them (if they remember their passwords, of course), not just the one kid in the family who's the unofficial archivist, the one who has all the black album pages with fading snapshots and ballpoint captions, the one who has forgotten which was Aunt Erla and which was Grandma.

But surely all these cyber storage spaces will morph into something else, and then something else. Maybe Facebook will go bankrupt and all our shared daily profundity will disappear in the blink of an eye – along with the need for its password.

Dad is the man on the far left, top, and Mom's on the far left in the next row in pink. With a hat. And a shawl. Have mercy!


C.Sheppard said...

Barbara, you just keep surprising me. How do you fit so many topics in one idea? You really need to go viral. I, for one, will do my best to move that along.

Henry said...

Okay, some my blog idea about "password" fatigue is no good anymore. My favorite advice from password mavens: Don't choose something obvious or easily guessed. Right. Pick something I'm sure to forget.

My other thought is that the better organized among us will schedule their status updates (via Hootsuite or Tweetdeck) and post from the great beyond, freaking out the entire friend-o-sphere.

Steve Robinson said...

What a lovely photograph. That's all.