Do you ever start treating your cool online software programs like a friend you can’t live without?

They are so uber-friendly, with their cheery “I know who you are” messages that encourage your health, your fitness, your travel lust, your social media…and you name it.

I use programs on-line that have so much personality they almost seem animate. I joke about loving the “high five” that the email distribution program MailChimp gives me before it sends out my newsletter posts. And I’m almost addicted to an on-line program called 750 Words that rewards me for dutifully typing in 750 words each morning, in the spirit of Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages, if you know her book, The Artist’s Way.

Last week, my love affair with these programs came to a crashing halt.

750 Words didn’t record all my words one morning. My streak of 400 daily posts was broken, which was VERY UPSETTING and I HAD TO TALK TO SOMEONE IMMEDIATELY, before my streak was lost forever. But the website said that the program’s administrator had just had a baby, so, apparently, there was no human behind the system who could help me.

I watched as some of the site’s magic began dissolving before my eyes.  Yes, Dorothy, the Wizard of Oz behind the big curtain is just a guy, and my highly motivating morning encouragement, “Congratulations, you’ve written 750 words!”, was just an auto-generated computer message.

I finally realized that when you allow yourself to think that a program is your friend, you have to be prepared that it can betray you!

As for those monkeys at MailChimp, I learned the hard way that there are no live people in that company. Or, at least nobody to call. Did you know that the company does not even have a phone number? (I searched for hours!)

Discovering that I couldn’t reach the Chimps drove me ape-shit, even though I consider myself a mature professional woman.

Years ago I used to laugh at my Mom’s computer-inspired emergencies. She’d call me late at night, and I’d hear a breathless agitated voice on the phone barely able to talk.

Readying myself to call 9-1-1, I’d ask, “Mom, what’s going on? What’s wrong Mom?”

“I…I…I don’t know what to do,” she’d moan, panic in her voice.

“I …I…I…CAN’T GET MY EMAIL TO WORK!!!”

Oh that.

Not a stroke.

I’d give her a few pointers, promise to see her soon, then have a laugh about it with my husband.

It seemed funny until a hit I glitch with one of my on-line programs and I found myself with a similar reaction: tensing, hyperventilating, and irrationally pushing buttons – all the while feeling forsaken by the system.

Because my formerly wonderful program had  STOPPED ACTING LIKE A FRIEND.

img_4076

Real friends provide support

Real friends answer your questions, and this is where the problem comes up. More and more, on-line services are hiding their customer support phone numbers. Once you find such a number on the bottom of a page after ten clicks, five screens of information, and one fill in the blanks message, I suggest you write it on your arm in indelible ink. If you find the number for Mailchimp, I’ll pay you cash.

Short of talking to a human in customer support, here is what to do when your program betrays you.

  1. STOP. Do not push buttons. You need to RANT about the abuse you have just encountered. I recommend shutting the door if children are around unless “Mommy is having a meltdown” is part of their vocabulary.
  2. Reboot your machine. Fortunately, you can usually rant and reboot at the same time. While you are waiting, pray to the god-of-on-line-programs-gone-bad.
  3. Google the solution. First, you must know what your problem is. Google that. Then search for answers. Track on several poorly written techie conversations about problems people were having in 2012 that end in “that didn’t work for me.”
  4. Discover another thread of conversation on the web that suggests deleting all your .plist files  Delete all your .plist files – whatever that means.
  5. Delete all your cookies – whatever that means. Get a cup of tea.
  6. Delete your middle name – it’s worth a try. Explore other shamanic possibilities. Chant. Reboot again. Experience hopelessness.
  7. STOP. UNPLUG machine. LEAVE desk. CHILL.
  8. MOVE. Ride a bike, put on boxing gloves and hit something, dig a big hole in the garden and break a sweat for a good reason (exercise) rather than your current reason (frustration). Or go eat real cookies.
  9. Find a human friend. The kind capable of hugging – not the social media kind. Experience empathy (not an auto-generated “we’ll be back in touch in a fortnight”). Remember what matters – and the fact that as cool and friendly seeming these programs are, they won’t give you love.  Can’t and won’t – even if they are called www.mybestfriendforever.com.

Unplugging for now,