The closer we get to each other, the less likely we are to have things in common. The more we know about each other, the more likely we are to fundamentally disagree on how the world should work. The more intimate the details we share, the more likely one of us has done something unforgivable in the eyes of the other. Dig deep enough inside anyone and you’re going to find something you don’t like. As my friend Lucas Molandes puts it, the only reason you’re with the person you’re with right now is because all of your previous relationships failed.
Human relationships are messy. We get involved only when we have to. We skim across the surfaces of each other. We give and get only what is needed in each situation: filling out forms, ID numbers, driver’s licenses, log-ins, passwords, online presences, social networks. We inconvenience ourselves for institutions and one another. Even our personal opinions and comments have migrated from scattered sites and blogs to social media silos, soon to be replaced by Likes and Re-Tweets. The illusion of being in touch. Spam disguised as social interaction.
It’s global. It’s local.
It’s the next thing in Social.
Hip-hop, rockin’, or microbloggin’ —
You get updates every time you log in.
So, come on in, we’re open,
And we’re hopin’ to rope in
All your Facebook friends and MySpace memories.
There’s a brand new place for all of your enemies.
You don’t really care about piracy or privacy.
You just want music and friends as far as the eye can see.
So, sign up, sign in, put in your information.
It’s the new online destination for a bored, boring nation.
Tell your friends, your sister, and your mom.
It’s time for something-something-something.com
The numbers say that social media doesn’t replace face-to-face communication, it enhances and encourages it. The numbers say that older people are uncooling social media and driving the youth to other means of interaction. The numbers tell them what we’ve bought in the past, what we’re buying now, and predict what we will buy later. The numbers tell them where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going. The numbers know who we are and who we’re likely to become. We are the products of social media. We are what it buys and sells.
And when time like the pyramids has worn away
All the mountains and the valleys of the words that we say
We have got to make sure that something remains
If we lose each other we’ve got no one to blame
— Oingo Boingo, “My Life”
The numbers can’t tell them what it’s like to hold her hand. How nice it is when she’s here or how empty it is when she’s not. They can’t quantify the unashamed laughs of children or the smiles in the eyes of parents. There’s no database for the barely perceivable daydream-driven smirk, no pivot table for the way that curl hits that curve in her neck just so. Big data seems so small in the face of real human detail.
Getting close to someone else is a sloppy, risky mess. The things you love most can quickly become the things you loathe. Taking that chance is the best thing in the world though. And there is no app for that.