Jack of Many Trades

Checking and the Internet

Originally posted: 2012-02-16

Some people leave their computers on 24-7 because they run file servers, or because they're downloading, or because waiting for them to boot is too much hassle. I used to leave mine on so I would know my apartment hadn't burned down.

One of the most common compulsions is called checking, and its exactly what it says on the tin: repeatedly verifying that something is just so, even if there's no chance it could be otherwise. Usually it manifests as getting up eight times to make sure the door is locked, or cutting outings short because you might have left the oven on. While I occasionally worry about the door being unlocked, my worst anxiety is about fire, probably because of an incident that occurred in my adolecence.

At some point several years ago I noticed that Gmail helpfully informed me if I was logged in at two places at the same time. I realized this would allow me to check at any time and make sure all was well, as the computer would surely go offline during a housefire. And check it I did: from work, from the library, and once I got a smart phone? From everywhere.

I don't do that so much anymore; my laptop doesn't like being left on. But there are other things I check. I'll set up a billpay with my bank and then check repeatedly: did I click all the way through to set it up, did I set it for the wrong account, did I put the date in wrong, did I do the math wrong and I'll overdraw my account? I know my bank only processes bill payments and automatic withdrawals at a certain hour. There's literally no way it could have changed the rest of the day. I check anyway.

There are some compulsions that I just choose to engage in, because the effort not to do them is so much greater than the time it takes to do them. I need probably five minutes to check my bank. Not checking occupies me for considerably longer.

But that's really just an excuse. It would occupy no time if I got over my obsessive fear of overdrawing, after all. In the long term, it makes sense. In the short term, I can't bring myself to do it.

I think I should work on that hangup soon. Maybe I should delete the banking app on my phone. Then instead of electronic checking, I'd have to bank with the paper type.