What a great Valentine’s Day that was, our 40th. Dinner at El Cacerio in Silver Lake. Called earlier to double check on our reservation made weeks ago. They didn’t have it. Said they’d called yesterday and I didn’t answer so they gave our place to someone else. I didn’t remember any call except our Uber driver. But that wasn’t our Uber driver, it was the restaurant. The Uber driver had been about to call, saw us and hung up before dialing. How was I to know. Anyway, we got a 9 pm reservation instead, but as we were speaking a cancellation came through Yelp on her iPad for 8:30 and we took that. Yelp texted my iPhone. I had to download the app which I didn’t realize I hadn’t done yet. A few buttons pushed and the app was downloaded, I dragged it into the folder with all the other dining apps and opened it, accepted the reservation verification and closed the app. Yelp texted me again, telling me the reservation was set. Then I opened up the Uber app, then the Lyft app and compared fares, closed Lyft, typed El Caserio into the Uber destination field, the app populated the destination info for me, arranged a car, which arrived and drove us past the lake which glimmered with an analog beauty in the moonlight, dropped us off at the restaurant and took payment for the ride from our bank account via PayPal. The maitre d’ found our reservation on his iPad and we were whizzed off to table for a meal that was delicious and terribly romantic in its lack of high technologies until I paid with an ATM card.
Forty years ago on our first Valentine’s Day we ate at a place called Hal’s off Upper State in Santa Barbara. The only thing that meal had in common with tonight was that we ate our food with a knife and fork. I’d called in a reservation on our rotary phone and my name was written in pencil on a pad of paper next to their rotary phone. Not only did we do none of the other internet driven preliminaries forty years ago, but none of them were actually possible because none of the technologies had been invented or even imagined yet, not even on Star Trek. The hours before dinner were rendered empty. We probably spent all that time screwing.
A guy asked how many of you have dropped an ice cube on the kitchen floor, only to kick it under the refrigerator instead of picking it up? Let’s see those hands.
I had to be honest. Me, I said, where it melts, and in our tilty kitchen the water trickles out from beneath the fridge and winds up in the middle of our kitchen floor and my wife asks where the water on the floor came from and I say I dunno and wipe it up. My Rube Goldberg ice cube picker upper technique.
You get very inventive in a thirty nine year marriage.
Speaking of the social uses technology, I am no longer getting two or three emails a day from hundreds of Asian women who want to marry me and I’m now getting three or four emails a day about erectile dysfunction. The hundreds of Asian women must have been concerned.
I don’t gave a computer. I don’t have an iPad. My entire digital existence is conducted on an iPhone, and almost everything we do is digital. All our business and finances, a lot of our shopping, all our transportation, much of our medical stuff, all the social media, all the research and every last word I write. I didn’t realize this was strange until today. We manage our lives out of a red folder containing a few papers, two old fashioned and ink smeared calendars, a few sheets of scrawled monthly budgets on a clipboard (remember clipboards?), and this iPhone. That is the entirety of our transactions, interactions and communications with the world outside our house. The thirty two year old Brick would find the sixty two year old Brick’s daily life utterly incomprehensible and certainly ominous. And the 62 year old Brick wonders how the 32 old Brick got anything done at all.
Huge hands with huge fingers are not an evolutionary advantage on a smart phone. I see my kind becoming extinct, like some sort of vastly fingered megafauna. I go to the La Brea tar pits and look at the skeletons of megatheriums with their huge clumsy claws and envision me thudding at a tiny digital keyboard with ridiculous fingers, tormented by GIFs.
New iPhone. First ever iPhone, actually. Last time I used anything Apple was 1993. I was much younger then. It’s a little weird and counter-intuitively disconcerting now, this iPhone, like learning an Indo-European language vaguely familiar but full of irregularities. Plus I’m ordering all these coffees at Starbucks and I don’t even know what they are.
Also, these Apple decals are stuck to my fingers. My shirt. My hair. That lady’s pants.
Oops, gotta run. Siri just told me it’s goat yoga time.
(Written c. 2008, when social media users were much more innocent, apparently.)
I’ve discovered that it is possible to use Facebook without revealing any information about yourself at all. None. What is required for registration you make up. You use an alias email. Therefore nothing of use goes to Facebook or any of the big, scary search engines that trawl the databases for whatever reason. You can even set up a fan page using your own name that requires giving no useful information. (Did I do that?). What is astonishing about Facebook is how all the information it has acquired on people is given over completely voluntarily. No torture necessary.
The scary fact is that none of the info they have on you is ever eliminated. There is no law requiring them to get rid of that info, the way there is with financial institutions, etc. Indeed, there are no laws about Facebook whatsoever. People simply cannot get themselves to believe that anything on the Internet could be, potentially, deep down malign. (This has certainly changed.) Yes Facebook is now, right now, being used to collect information on citizens in ways that neither the Third Reich’s RSHA or the Soviet’s KGB could ever imagine. I know paranoid leftists and paranoid rightists who will readily give all kinds of personal information to Facebook without batting an eye. I wish I could say I’m being paranoid but I worked in that side of the industry (data mining) for ten years. It is all about acquiring as much information from as many people as possible. There seems no limit to what people will tell a website. They have analytical tools now of astonishing sensitivity and breadth, and have ways of storing information is usable forms that are beyond the average person’s understanding. I’d constantly see the new tools coming out to mine that info. They were able to get more and more specific. When you can direct ad campaigns at individual users—that means someone knows so much about you that they can accurately predict what will attract you to send money. There are technologies now that can be that specific across databases that contain millions of individuals. They can even see what those people look like. There are pictures of them posted everywhere. Not only on their own site but on other people’s sites. Facebook didn’t develop that technology as a favor to its users.
HR departments regularly go to Facebook and do a search on an applicant’s name to see what comes up. (This was new at the time.) The applicant doesn’t even have to be registered with Facebook. If some jerk posted a photo of you on their website smoking a joint and then tags your name…..there goes that job. Same with security clearances. Medical insurance. SSI. Credit companies. Homeland Security. And that is just in this country. They all use Facebook and people just pretend they don’t. People think Facebook is all about having friends. Facebook is about information. That’s why it’s worth a gajillion dollars.
Facebook knows that a sucker is born every minute.