People Technology


I do love a good password. We have to change them regularly at work and picking a new one is a fun challenge. Something secure of course. Memorable. But most importantly this is something I’ll type many times every day, and each time is a chance to evoke something in myself.

It’s a chance to make myself laugh, to remind myself of something, or to encourage myself. If I’m not careful it could be something that riles me up. Or I could make it into a memory exercise, or a puzzle, or a game. Your passwords will affect you; like a mantra or personal ritual, something you repeat that often is going to make its mark.

Ian Urbina of the NYT has been asking friends and strangers about their passwords.

There was the former prisoner whose password includes what used to be his inmate identification number (“a reminder not to go back”); the fallen-away Catholic whose passwords incorporate the Virgin Mary (“it’s secretly calming”); the childless 45-year-old whose password is the name of the baby boy she lost in utero (“my way of trying to keep him alive, I guess”).

He calls them ‘keepsake passwords’: mementos and reminders. There are also those that used to change:

Mauricio Estrella, a designer who emailed me from Shanghai, described how his passwords function like homemade versions of popular apps like Narrato or 1 Second Everyday, which automatically provide its user with a daily reminder to pause and reflect momentarily on personal ambitions or values. To help quell his anger at his ex-wife soon after their divorce, Estrella had reset his password to “Forgive@h3r.” “It worked,” he said. Because his office computer demanded that he change his password every 30 days, he moved on to other goals: “Quit@smoking4ever” (successful); “Save4trip@thailand” (successful); “Eat2@day” (“it never worked, I’m still fat,” Estrella wrote); “Facetime2mom@sunday” (“it worked,” he said, “I’ve started talking with my mom every week now”).

At the other end of the password spectrum I remember a girl I went to school with whose password was ‘tree’. She said it was because it was short, easy to remember, and (most importantly) all the letters were next to each other on the keyboard.