My grandpa is one of those people who is very logical about everything, especially when it comes to passwords. He is the person who the tech people love, because he picks a random stream of numbers (there is that app that can randomly generate one for you) with no correlation to himself so no one would be able to hack it, and he also changes it often.
We all know that the random string of numbers and letters formula should be followed when creating a password, and yet, a lot of us opt for something more personal, something that we can remember and that is a part of us--but we construct it in a way that will hopefully not be cracked by someone else.
I personally am horrible when it comes to remembering random numbers--the fact that I know my I.D. number for school is a miracle--so I decided to take the cheesy route and use a variation of my anniversary date with my boyfriend because we got together when we were fifteen and that is of course what you did at the time. I still use it today because we are long distance and it is a way for me to take a part of him with me wherever I go (queue the "awws").
I saw this article in the New York Times, by Ian Urbina, about keepsake passwords, and the backgrounds for the password choices were so fascinating. People are making stories for their passwords without really thinking about it, and it was really interesting to see how they opened up to Urbina as he got them talking.
The stories that really caught my attention were the motivational ones. I would have never thought to put a goal in a password, but it really makes sense. Passwords are things we have to draw upon and remember in our daily lives, so making one to help you eat healthier or to remind you of a hardship that you overcame and don't want to go back to is probably one of the most clever things I have ever heard of.
One of my favorites in the New York Times piece was the story of Mauricio Estrella's motivational passwords and how most of them actually worked. One of these was: "to help quell his anger at his ex-wife soon after their divorce, Estrella had reset his password to "Forgive@h3r."' And as he had to change his passwords, he kept the motivational ideas coming.
So seeing these awesome stories got me thinking about what stories my fellow peers might have behind their passwords. When I went asking around to see what other people chose to lock away their emails and Facebooks with (which was slightly awkward considering I'm asking people to somewhat entrust me with something private), I was immensely impressed by how much thought was put into their passwords.
In addition to making the passwords close to their hearts, a lot of people put considerable thought into what would trick others. I usually tack something extra on the end of mine in hopes that I won't see some random hacking on my Facebook wall, but so many people took it to the next level.
The three girls that were brave enough to share their passwords with me all had some sort of motivational/proud moment aspect attached to their passwords, as was expressed in the Times piece.
Kalynn shared with me that at her community college, they were required to change their passwords every 90 days. This required some creativity and memory skills on her part, so she would always make them motivational to a goal she wanted to achieve that was related to school. One of hers was "transfer2014" and that's exactly what she did. She is now attending CSU San Marcos.
She also said that she uses variances of her anniversary with her boyfriend, because that is an easy one to remember. Sentimental and motivational? This girl has got it down.
My Swiss German partner in crime, Sarah, is the definition of a hard worker and a big dreamer. I always see her running around, textbooks in hand and schedule jam packed with events, because she knows she wants to graduate and move on to bigger and better things.
When I asked her about some passwords she uses, she said "Ever since I was 5, I wanted to go to UC Santa Barbara, so my passwords always had something to do with UCSB."
As we know, opinions change, and she now attends UC Santa Cruz, but keeps the tradition up. She now uses UCSC as the basis for some of her passwords, along with other numbers to make sure no one can hack it.
She also really likes to travel and makes passwords based on the places she wants to go. Some examples she shared were: something with Brazil in it for her music station passwords, bank stuff is locked away by something that contains Zürich, sports she does something with Australia, and social media gets Spain.
I think that is really clever, especially since traveling seems to be on everyone's agenda, though not many people actually make the effort to get out there and do the traveling bit. I have no doubt in my mind that Sarah will visit each and every place that she sets her mind to.
Holli's story is of a pride-based password. She's one of those people who knows what she wants and will go out there and get it, and not let anyone stand in her way. She paid her way through college, got good grades, and graduated with a degree in something she loves and has a passion for.
This was a proud moment for her, so her school's name earns a place in her password, so she can be reminded of her accomplishment and remind herself to aim higher and dream bigger.
Positive thoughts lead to positive results, and these passwords really let that logic shine through. The next time I need to change a password, I think I'll definitely go the motivational route.
While all the girls went for the motivational approach, the guys that I interviewed opted for more of a "what makes me, me" take on their passwords. There was a good mixture of childhood memories that got to tag along for the ride and still be used in passwords today, and also current hobbies/quirks that make them who they are.
My boyfriend Ian is a true video game player, and loves the games inside and out. From storylines to the artistic wonders of the game, they are a work of art to him as much as they are something fun to do. He's the kind of person who will spend three hours discussing the ending to a favorite game with a buddy, just like people love doing with books and movies.
Because video games are a big part of his life, he likes to create passwords based on a few of his favorite characters and games at the time. This makes it easy for him to remember the passwords, as well as integrate a passion that makes him who he is.
When I asked my friend David about his passwords, he said they were the "definition of nerdy."
"One of my passwords contains the name of my favorite anime character. I thought it would help since most people wouldn't guess a Japanese name," he said.
I thought this was very clever since he was able to add a flare of who he is, while also thinking of how to avoid getting hacked.
When Razma told me his password story, I couldn't help but laugh at how cute it was. He said when he was five he made up an imaginary dog because his mom doesn't like animals so he couldn't have a real one.
He uses the dog's name for his password, so even if the hint "pet's name" comes up, people will get confused because he has never had a pet. This is a great way to have a childhood memory live on, and trip potential hackers up along the way.
I wanted to see if this streak of "what makes me, me" passwords would continue into different generations, so I asked my dad about his password.
He said he uses his old license plate number from his first car back in Switzerland, where he grew up. He had his own car, but shared the plates with his dad, so they would have to trade off and wait until the other one was home before they could go anywhere. (In Switzerland the plates stay with the person, not with the car).
He uses the password because it has letters and numbers (the techs are smiling), as well as a reminder of his dad, whom he doesn't get to see very often, and of course the good old days of being 18.
What's so interesting about these stories is that the Times piece also found many people who use passwords that define themselves in some sort of way. Because in the end, making it about a memorable event or dream or aspiration is the best way to help us remember without making it easy to guess.
Do you have a cool keepsake password that you now have a sudden urge to share with the world?
The New York Times magazine will continue reporting on ''The Secret Life of Passwords.'' If you have a keepsake story to share for publication, please email the reporter at email@example.com. And obviously, please don't send him current passwords.
Maybe it's motivational, maybe it's about you, maybe it's an ode to pizza because pizza is the bomb--who knows?
Get your story out there and see who can relate.