Eva Bradley: Shut in digital outhouse


I've been locked out of my life. Literally. The digital age crept up on me and, when I least expected it, right from left field, shut me down.

Like every person in the digital age, I have a lot of passwords. I create usernames with reckless abandon and, in a bid to outfox hackers and various virtual scoundrels, I regularly plumb the depths of my creative right brain to make each new password more complex than the last.

It's a method which has been highly effective at ensuring my online security but, as I have just discovered, it is also a method which relies heavily on a small scrap of dog-eared paper kept in a secret location, which is always on-hand. Until now.

As I went to pay my bills today and to generally engage in my digital life, I realised with dawning horror that the scrap of paper had vanished. Swept absently into the rubbish, perhaps, or eaten by the dog.

Maybe someone had mistaken my online life for a tissue and wiped their nose on it, or a more astute person had established its true worth and was at that moment draining my bank account and doing a bit of web-based shopping at Victoria's Secret.

But regardless of how the list had been lost, I was screwed.

Like the slow spread of a nasty disease, my password collection had morphed from a manageable handful a few years ago to a long and meandering list that enabled me access to just about every level I functioned on.

As the day progressed and I kept finding myself unable to do even the most simple tasks at work, I truly began to see my life for what it was: me, a hard drive ... and my passwords.

Although the process is slow, I am on my way to re-establishing my online life through a methodical approach that goes like this:

  • Enter every statistical combination of my date of birth, first address, pet's name, mother's maiden name and ex-boyfriend's favourite meal.

  • Stab wildly at the keys in the hope some deep-brain motor memory will see my fingers tap in the right combination.

  • Enter one of many email addresses into each website in the hope it has a good password-recovery system, and if that fails ...

  • Actually speak to a human (desperate times, desperate measures) in the hope I can reset and resave what was lost.

Each new password created is like a little life being born, an entry into a rarefied world temporarily denied to me - and valued all the more because of the loss. Like a grandmother sitting by the fire knitting a scarf, I have watched with pride as my list of new passwords has grown.

And,as a bonus, my list has undergone a makeover, a digital-life audit which has seen old replaced with new - new people, new pets and new significant dates - a password list to be proud of and one to take me into the future.

And a future that is photocopied several times, laminated, backed up and stored virtually and physically, in places that can't be found but that I can remember. I hope.

- Northern Advocate

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