By: Griffin Leeds
It was 11:48 on a Tuesday night. Daniel Nial was two $2 water Long Islands deep and halfway through slurping down lucky number three.
Looking out at the sea of stumbling, smiling friends and peers crowded alongside him at his favorite bar, a quandary swept over him.
“How much of my time here at IU did I spend typing in that goddamn passphrase?” he mumbled to himself over the ruckus. After asking his friend Ashlee for a pen from her purse, Nial grabbed himself a napkin and made some approximations.
He factored all of the different ways in which students are asked to invoke their secret set of at least four words to access basically anything IU technology related thing.
Over his four years, there was using the computers on campus, logging into OneStart, OnCourse, One.iu, Canvas, and Umail. He calculated the times he would check his meal points balance and add money to his CampusAccess account. Lastly there was the time lost when activating the printers before the Student ID Swipe Switch of 2015.
Then Nial multiplied his number by 1.7 to account for the precious seconds lost when he would have to type his passphrase all over from the beginning because he had a feeling that he screwed up somewhere along the way but couldn’t tell where because all there is on the screen is the little dots of anonymity.
His final count: he lost 6.3 days to his passphrase.
“Of course, it’s partially my fault,” said Nial in a follow-up interview at the same bar but over lunch.“My first passphrase was ‘go blackhawks the rangers suck balls’ and then when I had to change it after two years it was ‘welcome to the space jam muthafuckas’ because it was the week of my 21st and I thought it would be funny.”
Two passphrases and 6.3 days worth of typing it later, Nial mourns for the things he could have done instead, ranging from the academic to the nocturnal.
“That was time I could’ve spent studying for finite and not repeating it twice,” he said. “Or I could’ve been reviewing for stars and galaxies, which sounded really cool when I was signing up for classes during freshman orientation and needed a science gen ed,but it was a space trap for my GPA.”
Obviously, he may have dedicated that time forever gone for more drinking or perhaps getting involved in another club. He lost valuable would-be memories bonding with friends or the chance to really fine-tune his resume so that he’d be employed by now, instead of camping out at home over the summer trying to see what jobs are left in his suburban town.
Nial contemplated the romantic impacts of his sizable passphrase.
“I could’ve found the girl I was gonna marry. Or maybe experiment with dudes. Really figure out my sexuality, y’know? But who’s to say now? That time is gone like the vomit I saw in the urinal here last week.”
Like those going through the stages of grief, Nial slipped into the all-too-late bargaining phase.
“I could’ve let the browser memorize my passphrase, but I didn’t know how to do that when Chrome asked me about it my first week and never got around to figuring it out over the past four years. And now all four of ‘em are gone!”
Nial ordered himself a pitcher of straight water so he could really appreciate the sobering reality.
“I probably would’ve had at least half of that time back had I gone with something shorter like ‘go eat my butt.’ What was I thinking? And now the time I spent calculating all of the time I wasted is gone too! Damnit! Why doesn’t this school just do passwords? How much more secure can a phrase actually be?”
Daniel Nial’s friends and peers continued to rage on recklessly like time itself. He looked off in the distance. We both understood what this was really about.
It’s not about the length of your passphrase. It’s what you do with your time at IU that counts.