Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
The term "identity theft" refers to a thief acquiring various types of a victim's identification (for example, bank account number and/or Social Security number), thus allowing the thief to pretend to be the victim and commonly steal money from the victim's bank account, etc.
This comic exaggerates the term, interpreting it as the thief literally acquiring the victim's whole personality, where the victim here appears to be Randall himself. The thief has apparently taken on Randall's love of space as well as his existential angst. (The character Megan also expresses existential angst in 625: Collections.) Thus, the thief is now completely overwhelmed by having an entirely new personality, not to mention one whose parts clash with each other.
The title text is spoken by Randall, in which he wonders about the specifics of the identity acquisition process: at what point did their thoughts diverge, if ever? Presumably, even someone whose personality is complete copy of someone else's would still have different thoughts at some point. This is depicted in the comic itself. The thief is baffled by his newly acquired interests, while Randall himself would not be baffled by the thoughts and interests he's developed over his entire life. Randall also wonders whether his new doppelganger is wondering the same thing (which could imply that their thoughts have not fully diverged).
Someone else comments that Randall may be overthinking the situation, and that the thief only took his credit card information (a common method of identity theft), which would not transfer personality traits. However, Randall's anxiety has overwhelmed him. He ignores the speaker and expresses his worry that there is now no way to discern whether he is the original Randall or the "copy."
- [Randall sits in front of a laptop, looking at his hands]
- Randall: I feel paralyzed by overwhelming existential dread.
- Randall: ...and yet for some reason I'm really excited about space?
- The thief who stole my identity has a lot to deal with.
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This comic seems to be about the idea that true identity theft would require the thief to take on the identity perfectly. The thief in the comic is Randall Munroe making fun of himself and how he is often existential and is excited about space... 1st post--126.96.36.199 05:19, 15 January 2014 (UTC)
Maybe it's a shared account, so it really is Megan's own existentialism & Randall's love of space -- a true crisis!
188.8.131.52 15:10, 15 January 2014 (UTC)
Is it worth mentioning the contextual element where this comic correlates with the relase of news of a rash of identity theft during the last quarter of 2013?184.108.40.206 00:54, 16 January 2014 (UTC)
The title text is a reference to a Greg Egan short story from the collection Axiomatic called Learning to be Me. 220.127.116.11 01:48, 16 January 2014 (UTC)
The description of identity theft is incorrect. Simple theft occurs when the thief takes money from the bank under false pretenses. Identity theft occurs when the bank decides to make it somebody else problem instead of taking on the chin and improving security.
The cartoon is mocking the common mis-perception of what identity theft is.--18.104.22.168 18:00, 16 January 2014 (UTC)
Several other comics deal with existentialism, not just 625. If we're not going to mention ones like 167 or 220 then the wording should be changed to something like "(The character Megan also has a habit of expressing existential angst in comics such as 625: Collections.)"--22.214.171.124 00:29, 17 January 2014 (UTC)
Either there should be a link that mentions Randall having existential angst, or it should be corrected to say the identity is from one of xkcd's characters, like Cueball or Megan. If I had a lot more time, I would search for these references. If someone else recognizes the importance of my opinion (if any), maybe there should be an incomplete tag too. 126.96.36.199 03:30, 13 February 2015 (UTC)
- I agree, there isn't sufficient justification that this is Randall. His self-portraits more typically resemble Cueball than Hairy (e.g. the dust jacket on the What If? book. Djbrasier (talk) 01:36, 7 March 2015 (UTC)
- But it seems clear from the character pose and speech lines that we're looking at the thief, not the victim. As for existential angst, it being a recurring theme in the comic (as noted by the comments above) suggests that it is unlikely for Randall to not feel that way at least sometimes. But the strongest evidence I would push back with is that Randall has never elsewhere used the first-person in captions to indicate a character. I've boldly removed the incomplete tag, though feel free to put it back if my argument is unconvincing. 188.8.131.52 14:38, 9 March 2015 (UTC)
- I'm somewhat unconvinced, but more troubled by the claim that this is showing the thief. It seems clear to me that it is the victim who is misunderstanding what it means for his identity to be stolen, as indicated by the title text. Djbrasier (talk) 04:29, 11 March 2015 (UTC)
- Okay. I've requested more eyes at the community portal. 184.108.40.206 14:22, 11 March 2015 (UTC)
Randall wouldn't be confused/coming to terms with know aspects of his personality. The Thief has newly acquired them and now is dealing with it. That's the joke.220.127.116.11
21:21, 13 May 2015 (UTC)