I have more or less tamed the tangle of websites and passwords. Picture a bare-chested man with flowing hair and sword held high, the light of crushed and burning URLs reflecting off his well-oiled muscular chest and abdomen, surrounded by the sound of passwords tortured into substantial entropy.
We are going to pause here for just a moment to savor that image. Now we return you to the reality of the situation. The truth is that I was much more of an overweight and balding trash man, picking through the debris left behind by my digital travels.
By dint of dedicated de-duplication and ruthless removal of redundant resources, I was able to bring the number of active websites in my LassPass vault down from over 150 to 71. Maybe 20 of the 79 entries that were “put to the sword” were duplicates that my careless use of LastPass created; I could delete those entries without much effort. That left 50 websites that no longer made any sense to keep in my present circumstances. It turns out that most of these now-obsolete websites have no mechanism, at least visible to the mere mortal, to delete an account. So I created a fake person with a fake email account. I updated the username, email address, and password for each of the websites to point at my fake persona, and coldly set each of these websites adrift on their individual ice floes. They are still out there but now they no longer have any connection to me. At some point in time, the website will die and take all of its user information into oblivion. Or perhaps the website will survive but in time will throw out a lot of garbage; my account that was, will be no more.
A few of the surviving websites are vestiges of a previous life and will no longer be relevant in a year or so. Most of the rest are “necessary” to operate in the world of today: email, finance, and places to buy things. And then there are the four websites that nag at me. I speak of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and GoodReads. And for each of the websites that I have mentioned, there perhaps a dozen more with similar ambitions. Each of these websites wants me to “join the community” and “become part of a conversation.” All that I have to do is give them a lot of information about me, participate, view the ads that are presented, and “good things will happen”. I have spent the last couple weeks updating profiles, adding information to these sites, and looking at the feeds presented by each of these websites.
I understand that I have to invest some time and energy into these websites in order to get a return. And I actually have quite a bit more time available to invest. My problem is that I’m just a little bit fuzzy about what the return is going to be. I’m not a “joiner” by nature. I am willing to put in the time and effort if it advances me toward some goal. Or to make it more precise, if this particular approach will give me more “bang for the buck” than other approaches in achieving that goal.
For a long time the predominant goal of such activities was to advance my career. Retirement, at least in one sense, means that my career has come to an end. That makes LinkedIn’s efforts to alert me to the existence of new jobs somewhat pointless. But retirement, at least in my aspirations, means that I want to become a published writer. Can I bend LinkedIn to serve my needs in this area? Or Facebook? Or Twitter? Or GoodReads?
In a very real sense this is very much like any other project that I have started. There are some very high level goals, some sense of the time and energy available to accomplish those goals, a seemingly infinite number of resources available out there in the Internets, and a very large blank canvas. The path is not clear, the ambient lighting is uncertain, and there are distractions strewn about. Pretty much, the “same old same old”, except where it’s different.
This retirement of mine is not for the fate of heart.