I keep a Word document with all of my user ids and passwords in it. Currently, it is four pages long, double spaced. Every account I have is listed – eBay, Amazon, Chicago water, my bank accounts, 401(k) account, Sharebuilder account, Pottery Barn, Nordstrom, Macy’s, credit cards, Walgreens, e-mail, etc. Everything. It occurred to me the other day how completely ridiculous it is to have four pages of user ids and passwords. It just seems so complicated. But you can hardly do anything on the Internet without someone asking you to sign up, create an account. So what if it’s free? It’s one more user id and password to add to the list. They are tricky, too, because usually the box to opt out of communications is tiny, hidden at the bottom of the page. I always forget to uncheck it.
I have a Yahoo e-mail account that I’ve had for probably close to fifteen years. It was my first e-mail account. Now it is my spam account. I get hundreds of e-mails per day in this account, mostly from companies who want me to buy things from them. Some of these companies I’ve purchased things from in the past – like Hanes, West Elm, Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Gap, Victoria’s Secret, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Bliss. I get at least two e-mails a day from Neiman Marcus. Overkill? Other companies obviously got my e-mail address in other ways, because I can’t recall every buying anything from them, or even visiting their web site. Then there are the political e-mails. You make one donation to someone, and next thing you know God and everybody is e-mailing you for more donations. You stay at one hotel, and next thing you know you are getting constant offers. I’m looking at you Bellagio, Venetian, Starwood, and Marriott. Even though I could swear I’ve repeatedly tried to unsubscribe from some of these companies, I still get e-mails from them. It seems impossible to make it stop. They just want to keep reminding me they exist. I know. I also know how to find them – I don’t need a daily stream of e-mails from them. On top of this, many of these companies still send me paper catalogs. They infiltrate my life both online and offline. It’s annoying. I bought something at Pottery Barn Kids twelve years ago and they still send me catalogs and e-mails. Can’t they tell I haven’t bought anything from them in twelve years?
Everywhere you go there are special membership cards which allegedly enable you to get discounts. I have cards from Sports Authority, Ulta, Argo Tea, Binny’s, Sephora, Dominick’s, Jewel, and God knows how many others. I can’t even keep track of them. Then other places expect you to hold onto a punch card to earn a free sandwich or something. If you don’t have “the card,” they always ask if you want it, then look disappointed when you say no. If I had a nickel for every time I turned down the Best Buy card, I’d be rich. I don’t care if I can save 10% -- I don’t want another freaking card to keep track of. The stores also want your phone number, zip code, e-mail address. I never give them any of these anymore. You can also have your receipt e-mailed to you, rather than get a paper copy. Like I need more junk in my e-mail?
Then you also have to make sure everything is updated – apps, virus software, operating system software. You have to back everything up in case your laptop or phone gets stolen or breaks. Sometimes I feel like I have a thousand devices to look out for, between my iPhone, iPod, iPad, and computers.
Frankly, I find it all quite exhausting. I actually miss the days when I didn’t have to deal with all this crap. Life seemed so much easier and less stressful when you had to go to the store to buy something and didn’t have to worry about user ids and passwords. I hate being able to check my e-mail from my phone and being constantly reachable. If I don't answer a text immediately, it raises all this "what are you doing" "where are you" nonsense. I hate seeing 200 new messages of pure garbage in my inbox that I don’t want, but now have to spend time deleting. When I leave the house without my phone, I feel so free. I do that fairly often on the weekends. I find it sad (and annoying) how everywhere you go all the people around you are staring down at their phones or MP3 players or talking on the phone. Remember what it was like "before"? While I guess it's nice to have all this stuff sometimes, I wonder if we weren't all better off and less stressed out back in the good old days.
There, I'm officially old. I said "the good old days."