humor, sports

If nobody recognizes you but you are you really you? The ironies of online identity

From the mind of friendly neighborhood paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney of Des Moines, Iowa.

I recently went online to buy a pair of pants.
The store wanted me to log in. I’m a valued customer, they tell me. I’ll want to collect all my reward points.

Reward? That sounds nice. I’ll log in.

Except I have no idea what my password is. I buy about three pair of pants a year. I don’t remember the last time I bought a pair.

I admit defeat to the pants peddlers. They send me an email with a temporary password. I punch that in. Then they want me to pick a new password.

I do.

I failed to use the correct combination of numbers, letters and symbols.

Try again.

Oops. You can’t use a previous password.

OK. I finally got one to work.

The website takes me out to the storefront.

I find the pair of pants I want. I pick out a nice T-shirt, too.

I go to check out.

They want me to sign in again.

No problem. I just set the password.

And … I forgot it.

I buy the pants anonymously. Damn the reward points.

I like online shopping. I’m not one for gatherings or crowds. I like to pick out the thing I want, buy it and have it delivered without contact with another human.

I know lots of people who prefer original-recipe shopping. I understand that. That’s how I buy comic books and shoes. Superhero stories and footwear are products that must be gathered in person.

But most other things I prefer to buy online, even groceries.

The biggest drawback to online shopping is the tracking. I buy a toy at one website and then go read the Wall Street Journal. There, the ads offer to sell me other toys of the same vintage. Sometimes the ads go as far as to suggest toys that I recently looked at online.

I was trying to read Jason Gay’s sports columns. I’m all done buying toys for today, thank you.

I was lucky to be able to get into the Wall Street Journal website.

I have no idea what my password is for that site. The Journal seems to remember me wherever I go or whatever device I’m using.

This is rare for an online newspaper website. I have a few subscriptions. I log in and click a box that says it will keep me logged in on the device I’m using.

At best, this works for two or three days. Then it’s back to hunting for a password.

This seems nice. This is how old-school shopping worked. You walked in and the shopkeeper greeted you. They knew your favorites and made recommendations.

I suppose that’s like what those ads I complained about do, but when a computer does it, it feels creepy.

When James from the comic store does it, I’m fine with it. When an algorithm does it, it annoys me.

Anyway, facial recognition seems nice except during a pandemic. I look at my phone most often during the workday – when I’m wearing a mask. The phone doesn’t know me. Then I enter a password. This one I have memorized.

I’m tired of logging into things. This is probably why I watch so much football.

Football never asks me to log in. It only asks me to endure the inanities of Joe Buck and Cris Collinsworth.  

I wouldn’t mind a username and password that let me log into a special broadcast of a football game that had no commentators.

I guess these are small problems.

But I think it is part of the overall exhaustion of modern American life that people are constantly forced to prove who they are.

It’s ironic. All this technology is supposed to bring us together, but hackers and hustlers endlessly attempt to steal from us, especially our data. So, we must prove who we are and maybe, after a while, we wonder who we really are if nobody can remember but us.

But this is no time for philosophy.

I’m going to read a comic book where things blow up and the good guys win.

No login required.

Daniel P. Finney wields a semicolon like a samurai sword.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. The new semester starts soon. All donations are greatly appreciated. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

2 thoughts on “If nobody recognizes you but you are you really you? The ironies of online identity”

  1. I love this post and can relate. I have a list of passwords and usernames in Word to help with memory lapse–and hundreds of login requests. I’ll often leave a webpage if it’s too damned difficult. I’m middle-aged and have lost patience. Glad I’m not the only one (not that you’re middle-aged!) Thanks for the LOLs. I found you through Roxane Gay.

    Like

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