I love technology. I love the internet. It makes so much of what I do faster and easier. However, when it goes down and is not working, I realize that the “old fashioned” way has its appeal, especially in its ability to have a bit of redundance built into the system.
My morning has been an exercise in frustration. Last week, I visited the doctor with my son on Monday. I pulled my insurance information up for the Nurse on Lifelock, an app that lets you keep all those plastic cards in your wallet organized and available on your phone, under a secure password. On Wednesday, when we went for a quick test, and Lifelock was down. I hadn’t gotten the notice that Lifelock has deleted its app and everybody’s information in order to upgrade things and make sure the system is 100% secure. While I appreciate their absolute devotion to data integrity, it has been frustrating not knowing why I have had all my data I spent hours putting into my phone disappear without a big Heads up, or a way to download all that data, since some of those cards we threw out, since we didn’t need them, with all of our data safely preserved on our phones… Sigh….
So, as part of the process of now reconstructing all that information (I would love to have a list of what I put in there so I know whose cards I need to find….) I needed to call our health insurance company to get a new copy of our health insurance card. I tried to get in online, but I could not register for an account. So I called the company, and they informed me their systems were down and I could call again in two hours. I asked if that’s why I couldn’t login online, they said call back in two hours. I asked if I could talk to someone about a new card, they said call back in two hours. Without computers working, I essentially can’t see a doctor, because I can’t get my health insurance card, because the computers at the health insurance company are currently down.
I dug through our desk drawers and began to fish out all the loyalty cards, ID cards, membership cards, etc we have accumulated through the years. I have a three and a half inch pile. Carrying around this pile of plastic has seemed silly for quite some time, so going to an app based process seemed like a godsend, plus my husband and I could easily do this once, and have mirror images of all our cards, ending the common refrain of “Who has the card for Longwood again?” and the debate that would ensue thereafter, along with the manic search before we could leave the house.
Some of these stores/businesses/club/membership places will accept my phone number as ID in lieu of the card, others will not. Sure, I know not everything is super duper secure on a phone, so I did not trust information like my credit cards there, but I sure as heck used it for things like grocery loyalty cards, movie discount cards, and health insurance- the information you have to have, but can’t seem to find right when you need it most. And now, it’s all gone. I lost the work that went into making the system work, and now I have to reconstruct it all somewhere else, reminding me of the painful times spent trying to reinstall Windows on a PC with no less than 23 floppy disks, that took hours to accomplish.
Yes. this is a first world problem. But it also makes me wonder as we rely more and more on the cloud, are we really getting rid of the redundancies that we need that made life work, that created that “backup” system? Even keeping the stack of cards my husband thought was silly and I know he tossed some and shredded some, thinking we had it all on our phones, so the “hard copy” was just silly and took up space. Likewise, he’s been after me to throw out the old CD’s we have, saying we have ripped them all onto the computer, so there should be no reason to hold on to them. But I’m starting to get that sinking feeling that while half of my life is digital, the rest is going to be made up of little bits and pieces that create the “hard copy” version of my life, that you never know if you will need.
(You can go back and read the experience we had in January when we had a five day power outage and no access to digital records we needed for our pets as yet another example of needing a few hard copies in our lives- I won’t bore you with that tale again here.)
The convenience of online records in incredible. It lets us do so much more, so much faster. But there are ever increasing vulnerabilities to this information and data as well, making the system fragile, and vulnerable to unexpected attacks, delays, and failures. We think we’re saving money, reducing waste, saving trees, reducing the issues with ink, and more- but I think we sometimes fail to consider whether or not we are also increasing our dependence on systems that have their own fragility, we often fail to fully acknowledge.