True Lies

My calendar app notifies me when it picks up on a destination for something, letting me know traffic conditions. Yes, Chuck. And does your phone also beep when you get a message? Fascinating.

Fair enough. I’m only bringing up this marvel of technology because this notification tends to tell me, on Wednesday nights when I’m heading south on I-405, that traffic is light. In fact, I’m pretty sure it always tells me that traffic is light. Which means, and you would know this if you were driving south on Wednesday nights on I-405 in the Seattle area, that it’s always lying to me.

I have no idea what’s going on. Since the calendar is the IOS one, I’m assuming it’s using Apple Maps. I also assume that Apple hasn’t quite worked out the bugs of that particular app, which I learned one night when trying to make my way to a wedding in an unfamiliar spot, years ago.

So I use Google Maps. I use it all the time, actually, since it’s become pretty good at sucking up real-time traffic data and suggesting alternate routes. And when I get a calendar notification that tells me traffic is light and I should leave in 15 minutes, I check Google just to prove that it’s lying.

I would love for traffic to be light. I strongly desire that traffic be light. I would like very much to believe traffic is light.

And there you are, the second decade of the 21st century all nicely wrapped up in an analogy. I didn’t even have to try.

***

Some guy I knew in high school sent me an email, years ago. He claimed to have found my column when he was searching for someone else with a similar name. I knew he was lying, too.

I mean, it was a long time ago, at least in internet time. He obviously didn’t want me to know that he was wondering about me, which I get but please. I just did a Google search for his friend’s name, as he supposedly had. No way my name popped up. But anyway.

Whatever happened to…sounds like an Arthur Conan Doyle problem, not a contemporary one. For years in the early days of online wasting, I searched for old friends. Occasionally I’d find something, a nugget, a reference, a MySpace page, something. But mostly nothing. I had to wait a few years.

So I understand why Facebook happened. I joined 10 years ago, in fact, as weird as that sounds. I looked around, didn’t see much that wasn’t happening in my world of blogging and interacting with other bloggers, and deactivated my account eventually. And eventually got back in the pool, around 2009, because that’s where all the cool kids were hanging out.

And I really believed, or at least hoped, that this would be a good thing. It was obviously fun to reconnect and share memories and pictures of kids, but I thought it had potential to be more. A commons of sorts, where we’d learn about each other and understand that people who looked like we did, who had essentially the same general stories as we did, might have different opinions on any number of things. Maybe we might fulfill Rodney King’s glorious vision of America and all just get along.

I wonder how long Rodney King will be a viable reference.

But no. And I was already a skeptic, aware that a lot of us were awfully gullible, something that didn’t necessarily correlate with intelligence or anything else. We just believed what we read, because we were conditioned to do so. None of this is new. Particularly if you’re in sales.

I saw a tweet or some other random posting by someone I didn’t know and so don’t remember now, but the gist of it was that in a few decades we’ll look back at social media in sort of the same way we now view cigarette smoking. Risky. Dangerous. Possibly deadly.

I know my way around truth and fiction. I write for newspapers, and it seemed bad manners to lie in print. I try to avoid it, and keep a pretty jaundiced eye on what I read until I get confirmation in some way. Particularly when what I read agrees with my world view.

And I’ve been engaging online for a long time, and a lot of that was wonderful. Old friends, new friends.

Now I want to go back to just sending out funny Christmas letters. Now I want to go back to blogging, telling stories and hearing some. Now I want to back away, slowly but surely.

Cigarette smoking is hazardous to your health. Believe otherwise at your own peril. Another analogy that takes no effort, and might be useful, since I have a feeling the liars are winning.

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