Walking through Liverpool Street station tonight, a guy drops his phone. Everyone around him stops. It’s like he’s dropped a baby. The phone lands screen down. There is a moment. He goes to it, slowly. We all watch. He picks it up and turns it to himself. His whole demeanour is full of dread. Dread-full. “Are you alright?” his friend asks. “Are YOU alright.”
Let me get my slippers. Ahhh. Good. And my pipe. Mmmmmmm. Yes. Here we are. My voice is tired so I don’t need to shout for an hour to make it sound right. It’s already scratchy. Ahem:
“I remember a time when these mobile whaddya callums were for posing wasteful ponces. Back when I was a young whippersnapper, you made a plan in advance with time structures, and you stuck to it. We’ll start at the nob at 7 but at 9 we’ll move to The Turk’s Head to pick up Sid and his gang. We’ll leave there at 10 so we can beat the queue into Washington Heights. If you miss us at shites we’ll go back to Tanya’s room at St. Pat’s for a late night wind down at maybe 1.”
I’m part of the problem. I write my blog on my phone now. But “Are YOU alright?” Ugh. It’s just a phone. But it’s an access to this online identity that we manicure and monitor so obsessively. How much of our actual identity is getting wrapped up in our digital identity? All of this information we put online – it’s not us any more than it’s ours. It’s a front and we own none of it. Our photos and our words have already been signed over to bastards like Wasserberg. We’ve already agreed in the terms and conditions, that nobody in the history of humanity ever read completely, but yet still somehow are legally binding. They could put anything in them. They probably do.
Also, since I’ve got my pipe and slippers on, these fucking algorithms that push us all into bubbles? I love getting into conversations with people who don’t see the world like I do. We all expand our horizons by doing so. If we take our whole understanding from the things we are fed by algorithms that want to tell us what they think we want to hear – no wonder everyone is wondering how a white supremacist took the leadership of one of the biggest economies in the world. These algorithms are not feeding us any voices that differ from ours. So we entrench in our perspective because we feel supported. The same mechanism that is designed to sell us things is having the side-effect of making us multiple islands of self-righteous fundamentalist bigots.
We conflate our online identity with our real one. But they are entirely different. This phone is a portal to lots of comforting stories – fed to me based on previous interests. It is not me at all. Me is a mess of synapses and muscles and hormones and organs and blood. I don’t fully know what I believe even if multiple algorithms insist they know me backwards. None of us know at heart, because we are arbitrary creatures – blown by the wind. And we can change our mind. Whenever we fancy.
This is my opinion tonight. I’m putting this cobweb of words out into the ether. I might disagree with myself tomorrow. I might not. These words are not me. They’re just my words. But how are we going to stop this trend towards confirmation bias that has been kicked off by marketing algorithms? Are we really all going to divide into tribes again? Leave that shit for football, surely…