Face It: The Relief of the Lesser Crime

Huffington Post

Remember when losing a wallet felt like the end of the world?

It's still a pain and hassle, of course. Mine was snatched recently, in the midst of the panic-driven, pre-blizzard madness that gripped New York City. Wallowing in shock and self-pity, I ran into a neighbor with whom I shared my woes. It turned out someone had stolen her computer identity that same morning, and she had spent the previous hours trying to get de-hacked. I later met a friend who had just returned from a week in Paris. A glorious seven days had already been ruined by two bad ones, unsuccessfully trying to retrieve the iPad she had left on the plane.

This all led to quasi-humorous discussions about who suffered the greater crime. Let's just say I came in third.

For me, after all, it was a walk to the bank for a new ATM card, a few calls to cancel credit cards, and an online order for a DMV replacement (and a few inconvenient repercussions, such as dealing with entities that bill my cards monthly). My distressed friends, on the other hand, had inadvertently shared contacts, passwords, personal information, and even credit card purchases with someone out there.

Those cyber-bandits, however, may have been occupied with conning Taylor Swift's 20 million Instagram and Twitter followers. Yep, she too was hacked recently. "This is why I'm scared of technology," she confessed. Columnist Andrew Sullivan isn't scared as much as just exhausted by it. He announced that after more than a decade of blogging, he is disbanding his online presence. "I am saturated in the digital world and want to get back to real life again," he wrote.

There is not one new thing we can say about the ever-dizzying clutter, potential dangers, and lack of privacy issues, ahead of us all. Each crisis is yet another wake-up call. Companies, especially in the Sony aftermath, have been forced to take precautionary measures: we can save everything on that elusive cloud; we can do our important messaging on the phone or in actual conversations; we can hire extra security. But we can't turn back the clock.

I am far from tech-savvy -- I am still laughed at for carrying a calendar, address book, and notepad -- but I too depend on the Internet and all it encompasses. I think back on how I literally cut and pasted my writing for years. Laborious for sure. But would I have necessarily produced better work if I had a computer back then? It is just possible I thought more clearly because I knew I didn't want to go back and rearrange my thoughts later.

The big news this week in the literary world is that Harper Lee actually wrote another book and we get to read it. (No one is more excited than I am, having gone to school as Scout on "Come as who you wish you were day") Just think if she lived in these tech-y times: she likely would have deleted the whole manuscript, believing it unworthy or taking up too much virtual space. Likewise, Bob Dylan may have digitally removed all those basement lyrics that did not make the first cut. (That now have been musicalized by other artists and made into an album and documentary) Laura Hillenbrand got the idea for The Unbroken not by googling "great POW survivor stories," but by reading whole newspapers while researching Seabiscuit to get a sense of other people then making news.

For the most part, of course, technology today makes our lives simpler. Except when someone won't get off of our cloud, and we feel, as my friend said after losing her iPad, "lost, stupid, untethered, paranoid and violated."

I feel victimized by a wallet snatcher, but not much more. They got my cash, they can get into the Columbia University library, the gym at the 92nd St. Y, and maybe a Writers Guild screening. But as one person said to me, "at least it wasn't your phone."

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