A new study shows that its rather common for teens to share their Facebook, email, and Twitter passwords with each other as a sign of trust. It found that almost one-third of teens who regularly use the the internet (which means, my guess is, all of them) shares their passwords with a significant other. Some couples create identical passwords and float in and out of each others accounts, while many young girls have replaced those old “Best Friends” lockets for the exchange of password info. In fact, girls are more than twice as likely to share their information as boys are.
Common sense says that password sharing is just a new form of intimacy that was an inevitable part of the rise of digital media. When I was in high school I had no passwords to share, but if I did I might have been silly enough to give mine to my best friend. But there’s something strange about laying a foundation in romantic relationships that goes beyond demonstrating trust to limiting privacy. The obvious response “well, if you’re not doing anything sneaky then you wouldn’t mind your boyfriend or girlfriend seeing what you do” doesn’t quite solve the problem for me.
As tempting as it is to see this study as a reflection of the random things teenagers do, I am confident that this phenomenon exists in the 18 and older crowd as well. I’m not even fully sold on the idea of giving my passwords up to my future husband, but I did date a guy who was very loose with his password, an oversight of his that made it impossible not to take a peek when I knew he was up to no good. On the other hand, I also dated a dude who lied about having a girlfriend and I eventually found out that not only was he full of lies but he had been calling me from a cell phone that he shared with his girl. So whether you only share body fluids and dreams for the future or whether you throw in digital passwords, social security numbers — hell even bank information — it seems that the shady ones will be the shady ones with whatever ammunition they can get their hands on. But where does trust end and foolishness begin?