5 Awkward Things Nobody Tells You Everyday Technology Does

The Internet has long been a safe haven for people who can't deal with other humans. It allows us to avoid many pitfalls of meatspace interaction -- chiefly, body odor and choosing a physical form that mortals can comprehend -- but it can't eliminate all of those problems. Because the Internet excels at attracting weirdos, it's even introduced some new ones. For example ...

#5. Skype's Emojis Feel Way More Strongly Than You Do

Skype

I use Skype every day for the part of my job that involves interviewing criminally interesting people, so you would think I would know my way around it. But you would be wrong. I still fumble around trying to find the button for the chat thingie when I'm in a call, and also I still call it "the chat thingie." That wasn't an issue until it became the primary mode of communication for another part of my job, and my first experience with its terrifying emojis came in the form of a sarcastic heart:

Skype
Or possibly one on the brink of severe cardiac arrest.

The only appropriate response was a sentence that is never an appropriate response: "Uh, sorry, I didn't mean to throb at you."

That's a very specific kind of heart: the bend-me-over-the-kitchen-table kind. Hey, I'm not here to judge, but that is by no means a design fluke. Using Skype emojis is like animating the overly exaggerated emotions of a teenager who's trying to get high on black-market pregnancy hormones. You don't just smile -- you bear the smuggest, most shit-eatingest grin imaginable. You don't just frown -- you quiver, eyebrows drooping, blinking back tears of the forsaken.

Skype
It's like Pac-Man fucked Taylor Swift's "I just won an award" face and made every baby.

The result is that you convey emotions that you never intended. Let's say everyone is ganging up on you because they all have incorrect opinions about Harry Potter (totally hypothetically, of course -- we would never waste company time arguing about why Dobby had the saddest death when that's obviously true), and you choose to convey your sadness with a crying face. You're not really all that sad -- you just want them to know that they've made you cry and that your misery is all their fault. But Skype doesn't just display a crying face -- you get a wailing, screaming figure that's clearly on the brink of a full emotional collapse.

Skype
This is known as the "Zayn left One Direction" emoji.

Now they think they've really upset you. Then they're thinking, jeez, it's just a book. What's your fucking problem? Now there's a surreal rift between you, and it all could have been avoided if the Skype emojis could get a goddamn grip on themselves and display even the most remote form of subtlety. It's almost enough to make you yearn for the days of face-to-face communication, but let's be serious, not really. If I wanted that, I would have clicked the video button.

#4. Spotify Privacy Mode Is A Lie

Spotify

Spotify is ostensibly a tool for sharing, so you can see what horrible country-reggae bullshit your Facebook friends have been listening to lately. That's fine, I guess, if that's what you're into. (The sharing, not the country-reggae; that's never fine.) But some of us don't like to share. Some of us just have an admittedly irrational prejudice against Apple products and don't wanna mess with any iTunes silliness or anything like that, and we have Lifehouse-shaped skeletons in our closets.


Yes, country-reggae exists, and yes it's as shitty as you imagined.

For those of us who judge everyone else's taste even though we're horrified by our own, there's Privacy Mode, which emits the sounds of a choir of angels that nobody else can hear when selected. But there's no option to default to Privacy Mode. It turns off when the program does. You would think that would be nothing more than an inconvenience for the embarrassed musical sinner to become unhealthily vigilant about, but it means that when the program starts back up, it broadcasts to everyone the last song you were listening to. It posts it right to your Facebook feed for all to see. Did I mention that Spotify is by default set to automatically load when your computer does?

XiXinXing/XiXinXing/Getty Images
"MacArthur Park" has ruined more reputations than every drunken office party hookup combined.

You won't know any of this until it happens to you (or you read my column, so you're welcome, angel babies). You'll just be minding your own business, rocking mildly out with the Dave Matthews Band, probably fall over in your chair and kick the power button because you're such a stereotype, and discover with horror that you've been betrayed.

You'll never feel secure again. You'll make sure to play a Nirvana song before you turn it off, and if you ever get blue-screened, your only options are to never turn your computer back on because you never got around to resetting the defaults or accept that you've been caught pants-down in the middle of a Hanson song. Not even "MMMBop" -- I'm talking a deep album cut. I don't know about you, but I do not have the hipster cred to pull that off.

#3. Chat Programs That Show When You've Seen The Message

Facebook

The early days of the Internet don't leave much to be nostalgic about -- I know there are some of you out there who have a Pavlovian rage response to that chk-chk-whirrrrr sound of the dial-up modem. But at least AOL Instant Messenger was simple. You typed your thing, hit enter, and your thing appeared. There was nobody snooping into your business, looking over your shoulder and yelling, "THEY'RE TYPING!" or, "THEY SAW YOUR MESSAGE!"

AOL
"A/S/L?" the creepy dudebro futilely shouted into the empty, unfeeling oblivion.
"Ayyyyyyy? Essssss?? ELLLLLLLLLL ..."

But times have changed and, for a normal person, it's probably nice to know via the little ellipsis bubble that the other person is talking. For the less well-adjusted among us, though, it's a little bubble of anxiety. "Oh god, why are they typing for so long? Is it a 104-point list of reasons they hate me?" God forbid they start typing and then never say anything. "What were they going to say? Was it an ill-advised declaration of love? Or hate? Probably hate."

Possibly the only worse thing they could do, and did, was add the little checkmarks that show that the recipient has seen your message. Again, this is probably a wonderful convenience for normal people. "OK, Gary has seen my message, so I know I don't need to send it again," they probably say in their totally not obsessive voice. "He's just busy golfing and he'll get back to me when he's done." (Normal people have friends named Gary who golf, right?)

Jack Hollingsworth/Blend Images/Getty Images
Gary will golf forever. Because Gary fucking hates you too.

For an anxiety-prone person, though, it creates many more problems than it solves. If I've sent you a message and I can see that you've seen it and you're not responding, I am 100 percent certain you are intentionally ignoring me because you hate me. Why? What did I do? Is this about my Dobby tears? Why didn't you just tell me that it made you uncomfortable? I can change!

Warner Bros. Pictures
Nope, I lied. Weeping forever now.

On the other hand, if you send me a message about something I really can't deal with right now, I have to hope that's apparent from the snippet I can see before I click on it. Otherwise, I know that you know that I've seen it, and I don't want you to think that I hate you. Now I have to think of a response right goddamn now or you are going to hate me. Instant messaging creates hate, is what I'm saying.

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Amanda Mannen

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