Dr. Smartass

Your Passwords and Your Personality

Think your password is a meaningless code? Think again. What you select to secure your account reveals plenty about your personality.

By (@doctorsmartass)

August 9, 2009

Got a question for Dr. Smartass? E-mail doc [at] esarcasm.com.

Dr. SmartassWell, hello again, dear disciples! I’m delighted to be back sharing scientific knowledge with you on this fine day. If we’ve yet to meet, the name’s Dr. Smartass. You can read all about my esteemed career here, though you’ll have to scroll down the page to find my bio (TJ and Dawn, for some reason, thought they deserved to be listed above me…hrmph!).

Today we take on yet another question from an inquiring eSarcasm reader, this time regarding passwords and what they reveal about your psyche. From my inbox:

Dear Dr. Smartass,

I was on my boyfriend’s computer and I saw that his Facebook password is “69anal.” Do most guys use stuff like that for passwords, or should I be worried?


Oh, Sara, I wouldn’t push too much deeper with this one if I were you. OUCH!

Seriously, though, it turns out someone’s password can tell you something about their personality. In fact, a British psychologist goes as far as to call password selection the “21st century Rorschach inkblot test” — same end result, only far less messy. Except maybe in your case.

“Passwords tap into things that are just below the surface of consciousness,” says the shrink, Dr. Helen Petrie. “You may unconsciously choose something of particular emotional significance.”

Petrie’s study breaks people down into four main groups:

Passwords and Personality

  1. The family folks.
    Roughly half of Net users fall into this category. These warm and cuddly cybercitizens use a nickname, a child or lover’s name, or a birth date as their password. This is said to signal strong emotional value. This is also not your boyfriend.
  2. The fans.
    Around 30 percent of people use something related to a favorite athlete, team, or celebrity. The fans tend to be younger and “want to ally themselves with the lifestyle” of the rich and famous, Petrie’s research finds. Two of the most popular passwords, according to her study: Madonna and Homer Simpson. Oops, shouldn’t have told you that; now you’re going to be able to hack into half of the accounts on Hotmail. D’oh!
  3. The cryptics.
    Anyone who uses an unintelligible string of characters is considered a cryptic. They’re safe but dull, and they make up only about 10 percent of Web surfers. Had your boyfriend’s password been “69p00per,” for example, he might have fallen here.
  4. The fantasists.
    And finally, we get to your man’s category. About 11 percent of porn addicts Internet users are fantasists, Dr. Petrie says. They’re sex-obsessed, picking passwords full of sensual terms such as “breast,” “thigh,” and “spicy buffalo wings.”

So, to answer your question: No, it’s not common for guys to have “69anal” as a password. But — no shocker — the people who do use such saucy terms tend to be mainly men. The sex-stained selection may simply indicate a high interest in sex; it may be a sign of an unhealthy obsession; or it may mean there are deeper underlying issues left unresolved.

Then again, it may just mean you should go out and buy yourself some KY, stat.

Until next time,

Dr. Smartass

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