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 ...
Skype's Emojis Feel Way More Strongly Than You Do
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:
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.
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.
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.
Spotify Privacy Mode Is A Lie
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?
"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.
Chat Programs That Show When You've Seen The Message
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!"
"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?)
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!
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.
Tweets Are Uneditable And Unpreviewable
Bless its little no-heart, Twitter is always a step behind everyone else. Sometimes that's great. For example, you can still see all of your followees' tweets, in chronological order, the way God intended, as expressly detailed in the Old Testament.
"It's right here, right after Moses ramped that school bus."
Sometimes, though, it's painfully obvious how outdated the platform is. On every other social media platform, when you enter a link or upload a picture, it shows you a preview of your post so you can be sure the thumbnail doesn't look like a 4chan prank. But Twitter just sits there smiling like an idiot who doesn't know his fly is down, then reaches out and pulls down yours.
Every tweet is sent blindly into the void, and if it doesn't turn out right, tough shit, because -- again, unlike every other social media platform -- you can't edit it. You better be ready to commit to that tweet unless you want to delete and start all over again. It's kind of exciting, like filling out a crossword in ink while standing in a thunderstorm.
But with a 50 percent higher chance of accidentally becoming a racist.
Sure, maybe it's not a big deal to someone who isn't obsessive about typos and the way a photo looks when you post it, and to whom favorites and retweets aren't essential to their self-esteem. I am not that kind of person. I once deleted and reposted a tweet three times just to make a joke about dildos. I remember it like it was yesterday: It was a response to a corporate account, and it included a link and a photo. First, the link screwed up the photo, then the photo posted weirdly because of how Twitter crops photos the worst possible way. Then? Fucking typo. All while racing to fix it before anyone retweets, because once that happens, game over, man. You can't waste a retweet. I'm pretty sure that's in the Bible too.
Automatic Photo Uploading
Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night for no apparent reason. I lie in state, the gauzy strands of imagined worlds still clouding my eyes, right on that hazy borderline between asleep and awake. Just before I drift back into the warm embrace of dreamland, I panic: What if there are naked pictures of me on the Internet?
"I should probably blow up every server on Earth, just in case."
To be honest, I don't understand how this works, which is the awkward person's kryptonite. I also can't figure it out and, given that I have a degree in computer programming, I feel like this could be easier. Those late-night panics have sent me into Googling frenzies, but it always ends with me frowning pitifully at words I don't understand. All I know is that some smartphones are programmed to automatically upload every photo you take to Google+ or whatever. And that's a large reason why I can never trust again.
Above: every other reason.
On my crappy old phone, every time I took a picture, I would see in the notification bar "Uploading to Google+" and told myself that it was probably nothing. Surely somebody would have told me by now if they had accidentally seen my vagina. But I could never be certain. After all, it's not like I'm going to go to Google+ to find out. (That's a lie. I did, twice.) (Although while we're here, should it ever come to pass that you happen upon a naked picture of me, don't tell me? Congratulations, have your fun, and never, ever tell me.)
When I got a new phone that isn't made of Scotch tape and pipe cleaners, the first thing I did was change every upload setting to "Never share ever unless I file a form in triplicate and give the clerk a special handshake." But it still fills me with terror every time I take a photo that is, uh, meant for a specific person. And now we've got the omniscient, faceless Cloud, which literally no one understands but which is apparently full of naked pictures ripe for the hacking. It's not like anybody is going to hack some random Internet writer, though, right? ... Right?
... just don't tell me, OK?
You can not tell Manna you saw her naked on Twitter.
For more from Manna, check out 5 Reasons We're In The Middle Of A Dumb Anti-Photoshop Panic and 5 Famous Songs That Prove Musicians Don't Understand Science.
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