Phishing expedition

Four-legged fans Cobi and Nikki rose to the occasion when Susan Wilson signed copies of her new book, "One Good Dog," at a recent benefit for the Animal Shelter of Martha's Vineyard. The event was sponsored by the The Bunch of Grapes bookstore. Behind Ms. Wilson are (from left) shelter manager Lisa Hayes, Katherine Welch, and Stuart Nathan. — File photo by Niki Patton

I was dragged into the modern world of intimate strangers when I signed on for a Facebook account. The original reason was so that I could denigrate the phenomena from a position of actually having used it. I had no intention of really becoming a Facebook adherent. Times have changed and, as I have noted in this column, so did my attitude, particularly when my book came out and the marketing folks at my publishing house created a page just for the book. Suddenly I was devoting inordinate amounts of time to checking my wall posts, reading other people’s remarks, butting into conversations that seemed interesting to me, and otherwise losing a lot of creative time to this social networking, all in the name of marketing. I had a ready-made excuse to waste time.

Then I got phished. For those of you who have ever been mugged, that’s what this was like. In fact, the reprobate who phished me wrote an email, as if from me, to my “friends,” claiming that I had indeed been mugged and needed twelve hundred bucks sent to me at Heathrow Airport in order to get home. The appalling thing was, this letter didn’t just go to my real friends it also went to my no less real, but not quite real friends.

My “real” friends quickly decided that this was a bogus email because, and this does make me feel moderately better, the spelling, syntax, and punctuation of this fake email was so poor, they knew it couldn’t be from me. Nice. But the worst thing that happened was that the son of a gun managed to change my passwords so that I no longer had access not just to my Facebook account, but to my own email account, my lifeline. I love email because I can edit what I say. As my alert pals noted, my emails are punctuated and the grammar is correct. The written word is my comfort zone and I have control over it, unlike talking, when I often fail to make my point.

Suddenly I was unable to communicate with anyone. Quelle horreur!

Maybe too much of my communication is dependent on email, but thinking that I had lost all of my email addresses for those people I don’t frequently communicate with, like classmates, really rocked me. It wasn’t that I was truly cut off; I could always pick up the phone if it was necessary. But those people who know me well know that I am not a phone person. Email was invented for people like me who truly dislike making phone calls. I always assume that the recipient of my call is being disturbed. An email is enjoyed at leisure, a phone call is disruptive. I hate being rude, ergo, I love email. So when Mr. Hacker phished my primary source of communication, I was freaked out.

Then a strange thing happened. I relaxed. I no longer had the obligation to answer anyone’s email, comment, or wall post. I was free! For about 48 hours I basked in the sure knowledge that I had no way of communicating with anyone and I could just sit down and read a book, forget the unanswered emails lurking just out of reach. It was a snow day on vitamins. It was all out of my control.

Another unexpected benefit was hearing the voices of those friends who picked up the phone and called me to say that they’d encountered the bogus me. I talked with an old school chum I only see once a year. I got calls from family. I chatted, in the old sense, using my voice. I hate making phone calls, but it was very nice to get a few during the dark period of my exclusion from email.

I considered staying off the Internet. I really did. But, like so much that has become part and parcel of modern life, like double lattes and microwaves, I couldn’t give it up. Once Yahoo and Facebook accepted that I was me and not the bogus me, and reinstated my accounts, I was back at it in minutes. It felt good to be back. Yahoo!