Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I Don't Get Haircuts; I Just Update My Profile by Libby Hellmann

Libby Fischer Hellmann's 6th  novel, DOUBLEBACK, a thriller, was released in October, 2009, by Bleak House Books. In it PI Georgia Davis is paired with video producer and single mother Ellie Foreman, the protagonist of Libby's other 4-book series. Libby also writes short stories and edited the acclaimed CHICAGO BLUES. Originally from Washington DC, she has lived in Chicago for 30 years and finds the contrast between the beautiful and the profane in that city a crime writer’s paradise.

I Don’t Get Haircuts anymore -- I Update My Profile
by Libby Hellmann 

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.

For example:

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.

Professional Life
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 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 renew library books online, decide where to go on vacation online. I watch 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, but most of my books are on Kindle and the other e-book format (at Smashwords). And 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 somewhat 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 online 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 real life? Am I, and are we all, heading toward virtual disaster?

It’s almost spooky to contemplate. Happily, I don’t have time to consider it. I have to update my profile.

Btw, I’m sure I left out many activities people do online… What have I missed?


Lesa said...

If Libby can come all the way to Tucson or Glendale to see me (in real life!), I can certainly stop my Kaye's blog to say hi. Libby! You do make it scary to see how much of our time is actually spent online. Funny, I just reinstated the local newspaper. I felt as if I was missing too much, such as all the local entertainment, by not getting it. Granted, I could have even received that, but that took me longer to do online.

You write scary stuff, Libby!

Lesa -

Rob Walker said...

Libby - I am so pleased your career is going so well, and they say Good Girls Finish Last. I am also doing far more via online than ever. It has opened a lot of doors in fact. Good to see you here.

Libby Hellmann said...

Lesa: Book tours are about the only thing I DONT do online these days!! And it;s well worth it when I can see you! Thanks for stopping by. And yes, it is scary, isn't it?

Rob, always nice to touch base with you too. But I wouldn't call myself a Good Girl.

Vicki Lane said...

Good post -- a little scary but something to think about.

Email has pretty much replaced letter writing and even phone calls for me.

And many people use e cards rather than paper greeting cards.

Sure there are more...

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Great post, Libby - thank you!!

and scary. I'm wondering what I did with all those extra hours I must have had before email, blogging and Facebook!