by Libby Hellmann
I wrote this a week or so ago for Kaye Barley's blog, Meanderings and Muses, but decided to give it an encore.
Drew Barrymore ‘s riff in He’s Just Not Into You was probably the best thing in that otherwise unremarkable film. She was talking about dating, and how people no longer meet each other organically. That the entire process is now either on voicemail or online.
To that end, it struck me recently that I no longer do anything much “organically.” In fact, I don’t have much of a physical, tactile life. Over the past 10 years, almost everything I do has moved online.
I just canceled my subscription to the Chicago Tribune. At least during the week. Why? I get all my news online. The Trib sends me a daily email; so does Huffington Post and Salon. MSNBC is my home page on the computer. I follow a bunch of news outlets on Twitter. And I’ve bookmarked a slew of other publications and blogs which I visit daily.
I get most of my crime fiction news on line. Wait – who am I kidding? I get it ALL online: DL, 4MA, Sisters in Crime, Shelf Awareness, bloggers like Kaye and Sarah Weinman and Joe Konrath, CrimeSpree, Goodreads, plus PW Daily. (I know I’ve left out a ton of others). I do almost al my research online, order books for my research online, and – well – let’s not even get started on marketing online. Suffice it to say I’m here and here for starters. With bells on.
Book Discussion Groups
I am a member of two online Mystery Book Discussion Groups, plus a private group that focuses on love of our genre. I actually write book reviews (well, a few) and get most of my book recommendations from these lists. I also belong to a flesh-and-blood mystery group at my library, but guess what? We did an online chat with an author last month!
This winter saw me redecorating a bit, and I got some fabulous things from Overstock.com. In addition, I ordered two new TVs from Amazon, plus a camera (they had the best prices). I book airline tickets, buy clothes, gifts, and office supplies online. Oh, and I make restaurant reservations online too.
Facebook has taken over my social life. What little is left goes on Twitter. My war with the skunks has been well documented, and I’m in touch with friends from waaay back in my life. I’ve probably been on every dating website there is -- with less than stellar results, unfortunately, but that’s another story.
I play Scrabble online, do Suduko puzzles online, and play solitaire on my computer. I listen to music online, forward YouTube clips to friends, as well as greeting and birthday cards. Sometimes I even email thank you notes.I'm not into online gaming, but I know there are people who do little else in their lives. I renew library books online, decide where to go on vacation online. I watch movies through Netflix. Åll my photos are on my computer – I haven’t had a physical photo album since 2001.
Whenever I have an unknown symptom or health problem (which happens more frequently these days), I don’t automatically call the doctor. First I check online. Of course, that can be a double-edged sword since I’m prone to thinking the worst. It could be just indigestion, but I’m convinced it’s ulcers… or worse.
I pay 90 per cent of my bills online. Haven’t needed new checks in years. And I do my accounting on the computer as well.
I make charitable contributions online, volunteered for Obama online. I receive at least one solicitation, maybe more, a day.
I can’t remember the last time I used a phone book. Or asked for directions. If I can’t remember who directed a film, I no longer blame it on a failing memory. I just Google it (if I remember). I receive a lost pet alert every few days, and I even communicate with my handyman online. And what would I do without Angie’s List?
I don’t have a Kindle yet but am considering an iPad, and as of a couple of days ago, ALL of my books are on Kindle and the other e-book format (at Smashwords)(Yay!). I’m thinking of publishing an e-collection of my short stories this summer. Of course, if I go ahead with it, I will do all my marketing and promotion online.
So, what’s the point? The internet has made my life much more convenient (as long as the computers work), but it’s also unsettling. Because I leave tracks wherever I go, it’s a certainty that someone could develop a detailed dossier on me, warts and all. And if it’s true that – as some predict – it’s possible to take control of the internet, what would happen to my life if they did? Could I be erased? Could someone eliminate or – worse -- take control of my virtual footprint? And if they could, what would the ramifications be in my real life? Am I, and are we all, heading toward virtual disaster?
It’s too spooky to contemplate. Happily, I don’t have time. I have to update my profile.
Btw, I’m sure I left out other activities people do online… What have I missed?