I’ve had a social interaction repeat itself over the past few days that went like this:
When speaking with a friend, someone I know but haven’t seen recently, I was asked to fill in details regarding something I had posted on Facebook. She said she’d “vaguely remembered” seeing something about the subject at hand on Facebook. The way the question was phrased stuck out to me, so before answering I gently asked a few questions to see how much she’d learned from the post. It became clear that she had what I’d consider a firm grasp on the content. Far from a vague remembrance, this was a clear view.
I forgot about this and then almost the same situation played out again with a different friend asking about a different particular. Then something really surprising happened: I caught myself doing it.
In a third conversation I asked a question about a trivial matter I’d seen alluded to on Facebook. In truth I remembered the minute details of this matter as it had been posted and subsequently discussed by our mutual friends. I lurked in the thread with interest and could probably recreate the argument extemporaneously. But I represented myself as having only glancingly noticed the headline in face to face conversation. I had internalized a social rule: Remembering everything you see online is not polite. Some thoughts on why this happens:
- To avoid looking like a stalker.
- To avoid ‘caring’ openly about social media, which is apparently still not fashionable.
- To avoid looking tech savvy and therefore geeky.
- To avoid ‘caring’ openly about your friends’ lives, which is also apparently not fashionable.
I don’t know why it is impolite to seem to have complete knowledge of social trivialities, but it occurred to me that, as information retrieval gets ever more quick and embedded, it will be challenging to keep up this charade of ignorance when both participants know your in-ear AI is whispering facts as you deny it.