A New York Times article recently discussed the growing trend of teens sharing passwords with their significant others as a sign of intimacy. However, this tendency goes beyond teenage relationships, and more and more adults are finding themselves being tempted to give their passwords to their partners.
Technology has created a whole new realm for our relationships to live in — the digital world. We email our partners and share digital calendars with them, letting each other know every move we plan to make. We text them, sending pictures of where we are and who we are with. We have them as Facebook friends and post and comment on each others’ walls and pictures.
As if this ability to see our every thought and action weren’t enough, sharing passwords to email and social media accounts has now become a display of commitment for some couples.
People who choose to share passwords with their partner often argue that they have nothing to hide. They say that password sharing is the ultimate sign of affection and commitment. It gives the other person in the relationship complete access to everything that they do on the internet. It removes all barriers between the couple.
Unfortunately, it isn’t always that simple.
Sharing a password is like sharing a social security number. It gives our partner access to everything that we do online — even to our online identity.
For someone in an abusive relationship, sharing passwords can be a way to extend the abuser’s power and control over the victim. By obtaining a password, an abuser is able to use the digital realm to affect a victim’s offline daily life.
They can monitor actions, watch bank accounts to limit access to money, isolate the victim by controlling social media interactions and even use online activities as validation or excuses for abuse. This extension of control can be extremely dangerous.
Even in healthy relationships, sharing passwords is risky. When we choose to share a password with our partner, we give up a large amount of privacy. We open ourselves up to the opportunity that our partner might not like what we are saying or doing and give them the chance to moderate us and our actions.
We have to decide whether or not losing our privacy is worth the trust or security our partner gains.
Things get even more challenging if the relationship turns sour. The New York Times also recently discussed how this digital obsession is redefining what it means to break up.
If things begin to go bad, a partner with a password can search email and social media for hints of infidelity. They might become angered to see that their ex is talking to someone whom they dislike.
A partner might become angry during an argument or break up and threaten to spread personal details of their partner’s lives via email or social media. What happens if they follow through on that threat?
There’s also the potential that an angered partner could lock the other person out of his or her own account. If they have the password, they can easily change it. This creates a very real opportunity for identity theft or impersonation.
By giving your passwords to your partner, you are potentially empowering them to use the information against you. When you’re in a relationship with someone, you bring out the best in each other, but break ups often tend to have the opposite effect.
Ultimately, whether or not you share a password with your partner is your choice. You are the expert in your own relationship and you know what’s normal and safe and comfortable for you. What are your thoughts on password sharing? Can you think of more benefits? Can you think of more drawbacks?