I was accused of having a social disease

Last week, I was staring at my computer screen when the phone rang. An acquaintance—not a close friend, called and told me flat out, “You have a Trojan horse.”

As these words mulled around in my brain and I began to absorb their implications, my cheeks burned. I couldn’t have been more embarrassed than if a man had accused me of giving him crabs. Or Herpes. Or Syphilis. Or some other sexually transmitted disease (although I’d certainly have some explaining to do to my husband. Or perhaps he would. But that’s another story.).

It may sound like a peculiar comparison—a Trojan horse and a sexual transmitted disease—but it’s totally fitting.  After all, having a computer malady means you have a social disease, the 21st century kind. Whether it’s a virus, Trojan horse or worm, in an era dominated by social media, a 21st century social disease is as undesirable and feared as any STD.

Of course, a “Trojan horse,” when used in the same sentence as   “computer,” refers to a destructive program hiding inside seemingly harmless data.  Derived from Greek mythology about the Trojan War, a Trojan horse on your computer can give hackers control of your system, providing them with passwords and credit card information and the ability to destroy and delete files.

To put it in a way that even non-tech geeks can understand: It can mess you and your computer up.

As I listened to the news that I allegedly have a Trojan horse and am attempting to spread it to other people (I mean, computers), at first I worried about how in the heck I would get my computer fixed. After all, as a freelance writer, my computer is my lifeline to making a living.

But even worst, I’d have to come clean about my “infection” to the hundreds of people on my email list—including clients, business contacts, and friends, along with Facebook friends (most of whom aren’t really friends, but still).

I felt beyond dirty. I felt mortified. I felt like a pariah.

Thank God, it turned out my acquaintance, let’s call her Rose, didn’t know a Trojan horse from a Trojan condom.

Trying not to freak out and to think logically, I questioned Rose over the phone. “How do you know I have a Trojan horse?” I asked.

“Because I have received emails from you telling me to click onto a link,” she said.

I can not lie. That part was true. I’m a blogger. I occasionally wax on about cupcakes, ice cream and other sweet treats on Sugar Buzz Chicago, my food blog. A couple of times after I had put up a new post, I sent Rose, along with many of my email contacts, a reminder  encouraging her to log onto my blog and provided a link to do so. The link, I explained, was real, not a Trojan horse.

I thought I had clarified the situation to Rose.  But she responded haughtily, “But why did you send me a link to your blog? I didn’t sign up for it.”

How could I explain to Rose that if there’s one thing those of us in the blogosphere have in common, it’s that we bloggers want as many people as possible to click onto our posts? “Gone viral” (unlike “You have a virus” or “You have a Trojan horse”) is a phrase we long to hear.

I couldn’t explain. I told Rose I’d take her off my email list.

Should I have sent an email asking someone who is not a close friend to read my blog posts? I haven’t contacted Ms. Manners for a ruling on official computer etiquette, but, as someone who considers herself a common-sense-regular-gal sort, my gut feeling tells me that if you don’t want to read my posts, don’t.

In fact, delete my emails, just as I do when I get spam or emails which I’m not interested in. Or reply back and ask me to take you off my email list. I will. Pronto. But don’t tell me I have a Trojan horse when I don’t, and you have no clue what one is.

I removed Rose from my email list. And so far, no one else has accused me of having a Trojan horse or worm or some other computer sickness. Still, in retrospect, what scares me most is that I, as anyone who uses a computer, could easily have had a bug.

And the mere thought of what that would mean made me so anxious that for a nanosecond I thought about hunting and pecking on my ancient gun-metal IMB Selectric typewriter, which is languishing on the upper shelf in my closet. If only.

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  • I know the feeling; I'm always terrified that my email will start sending spam unbeknownst to me. But I guess it's even worse when someone thinks your real email is spam!

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    Judy Marcus

    Judy Marcus is a freelance writer whose work appears in a variety of publications. She's also a food lover. For news, recipes and commentary about food, check out her blog, Sugar Buzz Chicago. For news and opinions on almost anything else, visit Opinionated Woman.

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