Password Fatigue - Managing Fewer Passwords
2023-05-19 -  2:30
"Don't reuse passwords. Use a password manager."
I remember when I first started using a password manager. Before that point, I frequently reused passwords or only slightly modified them to meet "at least 1 capital letter, at least 1 number, and at least 1 special character" requirements. Back then though, I didn't have all that many accounts, because a lot of services I used didn't require an account. That seems to have changed as password managers became more used...
Fast forward a few years later and every website has a login system. Almost all of those sites have no way of closing an account, and they all want your personal data, usually for marketing purposes. Like a sports team? You can make an account to enjoy the sports team with others! Want a sandwich delivered to you? Well, the sandwich place stopped taking phone deliveries, so you get to make an account with them now! Go to the clinic? Get your results on their cool new web portal! Get a cool new single player game? After accepting the games EULA, you get to sign up for an account for the publisher's site for... reasons...
A few posts I saw (mostly trying to sell password manager subscriptions) say something along the lines of "The average user has 100 accounts." Well, less than 2 years ago, I had about 150 accounts. I miss having a managable amount of accounts, like I did back in ~2005, so I have decided to do something about it.
There are of course accounts that I currently wish to keep for different reasons, like my server host and my domain name registrar, but most of the accounts are just extra fat that I can cut. I'm not sure if Michelangelo actually said/wrote this, as I don't want to go too far into fact checking a quote at the moment, but:
"The sculpture is already complete within the marble block, before I start my work. It is already there, I just have to chisel away the superfluous material."
Some accounts can be deleted/closed. Usually these types of accounts fall into 3 camps.
- Account can be closed on the website or app itself
- Account can be closed by calling customer service
- Account can be closed but only by sending a letter over the mail
I only decided to deal with closing the first 2 types of accounts. If the third type was needed, I just abandoned the account.
The first type is generally a joy to deal with, as account deletion tends to be quick and easy, especially if the Settings/Preference page of the site has a "Close Account" or "Delete Account" link. Some accounts hide their "Close Account" page, but usually a search along the lines of "How to delete account xyz-company" on a search engine will show a result of some sort of "FAQ" or Support page that contains the "Close Account" page link.
The second type is a little annoying sometimes because some customer service reps are trained to essentially keep customers on the service by whatever conversational means necessary. The thing that worked best for me while closing accounts of this type was mentioning that I'm closing the account due to "political reasons" and state that I don't wish to discuss it further. Even if it was very rarely for a reason that someone could make an argument could technically be considered "political", it got me results much faster than saying "personal reasons".
Most accounts I got rid of in my password manager fell into this camp. There was no way to delete the account, and I didn't use the account enough to justify keeping it. In these cases, I usually deleted or changed what personal information I could and deleted the account from my password manager. Because I use my password manager to generate random passwords that I don't have to remember, I can't easily log in. In most cases, I can click "forgot password" if I need the account back for whatever reason, but I really don't see myself bothering to with how useless most of these accounts are for me personally.
Determining which accounts have an "in-person" analogue
This was in my opinion the easiest set of accounts to abandon. This includes groups that are nearby to me that I rely on to some degree, which is mostly my local public library, local clinics, and my bank. In the case of the clinics or bank, if I need information, I can just show up in person to get whatever information I need. The public library is even easier, as there is nothing I currently use on their online portal, as I can check out books in person with my library card or if I need to borrow a book from another library, I can ask one of the librarians at my library in person if they can help me get a specific book.
Personally, I think it's good to communicate to people in a "human" way instead of bypassing them using some online portal. This is quite a bit in contrast with how 2020 was during lockdowns, as everything suddenly needed to be online to prevent too much close interaction, but removing the human element out of things to move to all-digital came with a lot of drawbacks, especially societal, at least in my point of view.
I am now down to 28 accounts at the time of writing this, with a few accounts that can be closed or abandoned when I finish what I need them for. For instance, I am using lernu.net to help me continue learning Esperanto after I closed my Duolingo account (as celebration for hitting a 365 day streak). I also ordered some backup glasses through Zenni Optical, so I won't need that account anymore afterwards. My end goal is 20-25 accounts (the closer to 20, the better). Who knew that the sculpture would be only about 1/6 to 1/7 of the size of the marble block?