When Sharing Isn't Caring

Written by Bill Leebens

It is probably evident at this stage of our relationship—and yes, contrary to my curmudgeonly nature, I perversely feel that writer and reader actually have a relationship—that I am wary of the overly-familiar, the faked laugh, being called “buddy” by someone I just met, being addressed by my first name by someone two generations younger, or worst of all, having my first name spoken every other sentence, like a bad car salesman verging on saying, “Bill, what’ll it take for you to take this baby home this afternoon (slap on fender), Bill?”

Ever listen to Alex Rodriguez doing color commentary of a baseball game? Yeah, like that, Jessica…..Ooghh.

It’s difficult to develop real, meaningful relationships in a world geared to the one-click sale and the accumulation of “friends” —and with over a thousand of those on Facebook, some of whom I actually, honestly know, I’m as guilty as anyone for perpetuating that practice. Outside of my immediate family, I probably have a dozen or two relationships I consider to be, well, pretty good friends. Meaning, our familiarity and knowledge of one another is far beyond that of mere acquaintances, but there is still a bit of geographic distance or emotional reserve that prevents me from thinking of those folks as being truly close.

Ironically, my really close friends are those who supported me in my direst moments, and whom I’ve supported during their own crises. I suspect that that whole Upper Midwestern Reserve thing in my DNA makes me a little suspicious of relationships that consist only of hilarity and, God forbid, good times. There is in my personality a touch of what Greg Brown rather brilliantly called “One Cool Remove” (the Colvin/Carpenter cover, please).

“So, Leebs—if you don’t like faked friendship and forced familiarity, how do you feel about a zillion anonymous coders somewhere who likely know your every move and financial misstep, and who periodically try to slip a bogus charge past you?”

Funny that you mention that, Reader—and may I call you Reader?

Truth be told, it usually doesn’t bother me as much as it probably should. Until it does: and then it really bothers me.

As the youngest of four siblings and as one who was married for two decades, whatever expectations of privacy I might’ve once had were washed away ages ago. So while the occasional excerpt from a “private” email appearing in an awkward place is less than pleasant, it doesn’t shock me. And while I was a latecomer to online financial transactions, I’ve honestly had fewer issues in that world than I did back when I was mailing checks or presenting payments in cash. In over 40 years of using ATMs, I’ve never had one short me or miscount a deposit. In comparison, I had numerous interactions with “real” tellers who couldn’t or wouldn’t count—I still vividly recall a teller who deposited an $850 check and then proceeded to hand me the whole amount in cash— and similarly, numerous merchants who oops, forgot to credit my payment and then decided to ding my credit.

Astonishingly—and I really mean that, being a semi-converted luddite—the systems created and put in place by humans generally work better than direct interactions with humans.

Until they don’t. At least these days, banks and other entities are willing to admit that, well, things happen (and Wells Fargo, you know I mean you). While reviewing one of my accounts online recently, I found a hit for $79 that I didn’t recognize. The transaction showed only a phone number and a generic company name (not Amalgamated Everything, but close). Checking the phone number I saw it was linked to a very fundamentalist group that I knew I had nothing to do with. That was annoying, by itself, but the really rankling part was that the transaction was on a card that had been canceled and destroyed a year ago, after it had been compromised.

How the hell does a transaction on a dead card go through?

It’s a mystery—and not the kind old priests bring up. It wasn’t all that comforting that it was a mystery to my bank as well, but the usual bureaucracy of disputing a fraudulent transaction is going through, and I’ve already been refunded the money.

This falls under the “and then it really bothers me” heading. But what’s the alternative? Cash only? Bitcoin?? I don’t think so.

For the most part, I’m astounded at how well most of these complex systems work—even if I have no idea how they work.

But then: bafflement is a big part of everyday life these days—isn’t it?

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