Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Your Digital Estate

Log In information. Usernames and Passwords. Trillions of them flooding cyberspace on a daily basis. We all have them. I almost have too many to remember now. Financial accounts, social media accounts, business accounts, hobbyist accounts, online retailer accounts, email accounts, smartphone accounts, and the list goes on.

I can't tell you how many times I've been locked out of one of my accounts because I can't get the right username and password combination. It's almost like trying to crack a safe that's sitting at the bottom of the ocean guarded by a troll-like mermaid firing phosphorus flames from her flippers.
Accessing a piece of my digital life shouldn't be that cumbersome. But it is, and it doesn't help that my online footprint is everywhere, from Facebook and GoDaddy to the DMV and the NRA. And once in a while I have to go on that epic online journey in search of the ever elusive "Contact Us" link to get a hold of someone that knows who I am, because I haven't got a clue.
There it is! "Contact Us" buried in the smallest font imaginable under the "play video games for life" ad. I luck out. This actually has an 800 number and not some obscure texting rigmarole.
"Beep Boop Beep Beep Boop Boop Beep Beep Boop Boop."
"Halo, This is Raji, from tech support for Hot Pink Pajamas dot com, can I help you?"
"Umm...I can't seem to remember my password?"
"What eese your username, sir."
"Umm...I can't remember."
Stupified by my stupidity, Raji says, "Ummmm...," which completely unmasks his ethnicity, because on the other end of the phone line I picture him cross-legged with his eyes closed transcending time and space. "Let me transfer you to phone call purgatory and see what they can do for you."
"Thank you, but no. Is there anyway YOU can help me?"
"What eese your social security number?"
"Nice try, Bucko. Go chase yourself."
"Very well, if dere's nothing else I can help you with, have a nice day." *Click*
Other than a feeling of ineptitude, a slight twinge of rage, a pinch of vulnerability and a tablespoon of shame, my personhood is intact.

Believe it or not, this happens more than you might think. Keeping your cyber life organized is only about as difficult as balancing a checkbook or slaying a mammoth, depending on how you look at it. Here are a few ways you can turn this veritable bucket of chum into a well crafted German automobile.
Option One: Put together a list or spreadsheet with five headings: Company, Username, Password, Secret Question, Secret Answer, then fill in the blanks for all your digital accounts. You can do this on a Word Document, Legal Pad, or piece of papyrus. Then store said information in a safe place. However, not so safe you yourself will forget where it is, Mr. Griswold.
Option Two: Make all usernames match. Make all passwords match. Make all secret answers match, no matter what the secret question is. Don't make it to easy, you wanna make it easy on yourself, but as difficult as possible for identity thieves.
and finally,
Option Three: Send me all your usernames, passwords, secret questions and answers. I'll organize them, make a photocopy and give them back. End of story.

Each option has it pros and cons, which you have to measure carefully. Whatever you end up doing the goal is to inevitably make you easier to be around, because if you are constantly talking to tech support or reading emails about how to reset passwords and usernames then you are probably not the epitome of frivolity and pleasure.
The second reason you need to do this if for your loved ones. In the unlikely event of your untimely death or relocation as a result of the witness protection program, your loved ones will need an easy way to successfully secure your digital estate. (Yep, that's right I'm makin' it super real up in heya!)
While your making your way to the pearly gates, your friends and family are trying to figure out how to stop that weekly subscription to Fancy Cats or those automatic location updates to your social media profile.
"5 minutes ago at the Hospital." / "10 minutes ago at the City Morgue." / "6 minutes ago at Finnigan's Bar." Whoops!
Fun Bobby "likes" this.

It's tough enough in this world when someone passes; why not try to make it a little easier on everybody. Organize your digital estate and make it manageable. Tell someone you love and trust where all your information is, so some unsuspecting family member doesn't get a call from the Jane Fonda Fan Club trying to find out why you haven't been attending the online meetings.

In death and in life, your property is your property. Whether virtual or actual, you own it, and you decide who gets it when you're gone. And although Raji may seem like he's happy to hear from us, he's not, which might have something to do with that clandestine "Contact Us" button he doesn't want us to find. If we have that much trouble trying to get our own log in information, imagine getting it for someone else. Raji doesn't want to hear from us because he knows he'll just make us angry. He'd rather just play solitaire. I'd rather just blog about it.

For more information about what Digital Estates click on the following links:
(This is a crazy story about a woman's son who died and Facebook wouldn't allow her to access his Facebook profile)


***This blog post is dedicated to my friend and fellow artist Andrew Todd, who passed away last week. He showed me how to pursue my dreams by pursuing his at all costs. He helped get me my first job in media and mentored me through the mine field of mass communications. I will forever be grateful for his kindness and friendship. Here's to you Andy.***


  1. Thanks for this, Polar Bear. I'll always remember the steroids video presentation Andy put together for Health class. His technological prowess amazed me.

  2. my pleasure, jason. i remember that video, it was the first time anything like that had been done at emmanuel by a student, that i can recall.