I miss the old days when calling to make sure someone made it home safely and sending flowers were ways to prove your love. Nowadays you have to tattoo someone’s name (or face) on you to show them it’s real, or as a new trend shows, give them all of your online passwords.
A New York Times article, Young, in Love and Sharing Everything, Including a Password, shows teenagers are increasingly giving each other their account information as a sign of unwavering devotion.
“It’s a sign of trust,” Tiffany Carandang, a high school senior in San Francisco, told the New York Times of why she and her boyfriend decided to share passwords for e-mail and Facebook. “I have nothing to hide from him, and he has nothing to hide from me. I know he’d never do anything to hurt my reputation.”
Tiffany’s not alone in her thinking. A 2011 telephone survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that 30% of teenagers who were regularly online had shared a password with a friend, boyfriend, or girlfriend. Of the 770 teenagers aged 12 to 17, girls were almost twice as likely as boys to share their information (figures).
On the surface, you could look at the practice as “cute” like many teens do, but in some ways it’ also a mature step that’s just not necessary at that age—or possibly at any. Teenagers are notorious for hooking up with someone quickly, thinking they’re in love within a month or two, and planning their wedding after a year. When you’re young, dating should be carefree and giving someone access to your entire online life is just asking for problems. Facebook already causes enough issues among adult couples as it is, and I’ve seen enough accounts get altered when there’s a breakdown in a relationship to know that among teens, this is just asking for a cyber-bulling breakout.
Sam Biddle of Gizmodo website calls password sharing “a linchpin of intimacy” for all couples in the 21st century. “I’ve known plenty of couples who have shared passwords, and not a single one has not regretted it,” he said, adding that the practice includes the unspoken potential for mutually assured destruction if somebody gets out of line. “It’s the kind of symbolism that always goes awry.”
When I first saw this article, I instantly thought of Angela on “Why Did I Get Married Too” and how important it was for her to have Marcus’s email and phone passwords as a sign of his faithfulness. If you need to have your partner’s password, that means you need to be assured they’re faithful, and if you need that reassurance, you may not need to be in a relationship with them at all. Having someone’s password is just approval to snoop, and as we’ve talked about many times on this site, if you have to snoop, it’s probably time to go anyway.
I had my ex’s email password when we were together but not because I asked him for it or I wanted it. He needed help with something he was working on and gave me the password to access information in his account. Yes, I kept the password in case I needed it in the future, but he never asked me for mine and I never intended on giving it to him. When you’re in a relationship, you ought to be able to keep some things separate and private and I think emails are one of those things—especially if we’re not married. We’re not sharing bank accounts so we don’t need to share email accounts. I think all of these ridiculous ways of proving your love for someone are just a sign of our twisted times. If you want to prove you love me, simply treat me right, I don’t need to check and see who’s poking you on Facebook.
What do you think about this idea of teenagers giving each other their online passwords? Do you have your partner’s account information? Do you think married couples should exchange that info?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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