|This is fine. Sharing Password isn't.|
The New York Times reports today on the naughtiest thing that teenagers in love are doing behind closed doors: swapping passwords for their Facebook and email accounts.
It has become fashionable for young people to express their affection for each other by sharing their passwords to e-mail, Facebook and other accounts. Boyfriends and girlfriends sometimes even create identical passwords, and let each other read their private e-mails and texts.
They say they know such digital entanglements are risky, because a souring relationship can lead to people using online secrets against each other. But that, they say, is part of what makes the symbolism of the shared password so powerful.
“It’s a sign of trust,” Tiffany Carandang, a high school senior in San Francisco, said of the decision she and her boyfriend made several months ago to share passwords for e-mail and Facebook. “I have nothing to hide from him, and he has nothing to hide from me.”
In a recent study, Pew found that 1 in 3 teens surveyed share passwords with a friend, boyfriend or girlfriend. The Times explores some of the obvious downsides to this, including obsessive scouring of a significant other’s account for signs of infidelity and using the access for sabotage when a relationship goes sour. One expert they talked to compared the pressure to exchange passwords to the pressure to have sex. Have fun with the latter, kids, but I urge you to consider digital abstinence. Here’s why…
There is something pure and romantic about the idea of sharing everything, and having no secrets from one another. But it’s romantic the same way that Romeo and Juliet is romantic, in a tragic, horrible, everyone-is-miserable-and-dies-at-the-end kind of way.
Email is one of the few private spaces left in this hyper-sharing age. Sam Biddle at Gizmodo says, “This isn’t about having something to hide—it’s about keeping meaningful boundaries in an era when there are verrrrry few. We all need whatever scraps of privacy we have left, and your email is just that.”
Trust is an important bedrock for any relationship, but this isn’t trust. This is mutually assured trust destruction. Intimacy comes from sharing select private information with people, not giving them keys to your privacy kingdom.
When you share your password with someone, you open yourself up to the obvious downsides suggested by the Times. But you’re not just violating your own privacy, you’re violating that of everyone you correspond with. People send an email to your account assuming you’re the only one who will see it. They realize there’s a risk you might share the news with significant others, friends, family, or a random stranger on the bus, but there’s a reasonable assumption that you don’t have someone else reading your email.
I speak from experience. I was in a relationship a few years back where my then-boyfriend and I knew one another’s email passwords. It happened almost by accident. We shared a computer at home and if the other person was using the computer, we would ask them to sign in and check our email for anything new. This was in my PS (pre-smartphone) era.
It wasn’t healthy. Curiosity is a devastating emotion when you have access to a significant other’s account. When times turned bad, I found myself addicted to seeing how he was describing our crumbling relationship to others. I eventually had to ask him to change his password — which he initially refused to do, seeing it as a nail in the coffin of the relationship — but I insisted, because I couldn’t stop myself from looking.
Seeing more doesn’t always reassure. Sometimes having access to more information just gives you more to worry about. One study in 2009 found that simply being Facebook friends (without any password swapping) has that effect on couples. Having a record of all of their friends, who’s writing on their wall, and who has been in their photos simply served to provide more fodder for jealous thoughts.
Nowadays, we have so much access to information about other people. We can scroll through their social networking accounts, see their location on Foursquare, see what people have said about them via a Google search, see photos from their entire lives on Flickr or Picasa or Facebook. Parents have monitoring programs on their kids’ computers and phones, so that they know where they are, who they’re talking to, and what websites they’re visiting. I’m starting to wonder if, as a society, we’re becoming addicted to spying on one another. The access to so much information just seems to be spurring us to want more and more. We’re like the Cookie Monsters of personal information.
There are a few lines we can draw to keep ourselves from truly living in a Little Brother society. An important one is keeping passwords to your email and social networking accounts to yourself.
In other words, kids (and adults), just say no to password sharing! Love means never having to say you’re sorry that you went back and read all of the emails that your significant other exchanged with their ex.
Do you disagree? Do you freely share passwords with your S.O.? Shoot me an email and tell me why. I promise I’m the only one who reads them.Source: forbes.com