It’s Monday, 11 July, 2022 in Portland, Oregon and it was super hot today.
A short one here. I was on Instagram, because I am old, and I still look at Instagram when I feel like seeing pictures from my friends. It’s mainly friends – not brands, and not “random interesting people on the internet”.
Anyway, that thing happens where Instagram from Meta née Facebook suggests new contacts or accounts for me to follow and of course this time one of the accounts is my landlord.
I know much of this has been written about before, so I’ll try to go quickly.
But then you grow up and get older and at some point you may leave Never Never Land and enter some new land where you deal with dentists and restaurants and landlords and doctors and surgeries and plumbers and tennis instructors and piano tuners or neighbors. And because all this stuff is in your phone or takes up no physical space other than in your mental model of your graph of acquaintances, there’s no need to groom your address book. It grows and grows and grows.
And so, occasionally, the suggestions start getting, well, if not weird, then just inappropriate. You are recommended to follow your dentist. Or your landlord. Or a plumber. Or your ex’s deceased father in law. Or your deceased ex’s father in law. Or a bakery you once went to but accidentally saved its number in your phone.
All of this made sense at the time. It made sense, when your world was small and your responsibilities limited and your need for services negligible that your world consisted of entertainment and friendship and less obligation and service. Or maybe I’m stereotyping. Or maybe I’m painting an unrealistic picture: “clearly you’re just talking about mythical techbros”, some sort of abstract case, a platonic ideal of those with no attachments and extreme privilege.
But things change and your address book wasn’t what it was. Things change and your model of data got richer, more complex, but the mechanisms for dealing with it were fossilized in time at the cambrian explosion of viral growth, they’re now canonized alongside the teachings of Saint Hotmail of Signature, so your only real choices now are “lend me your address book, citizens”, or not at all, so there is no middle ground, there is nothing but recreate your network intentionally, from scratch which ugh it’s so much effort but then wouldn’t that be the proper, more mindful thing to do, or there would be the faster, easier method of just ah, fuckit, here you go, have my address book, have all my contacts going back 20 years or more, just take it, all I want to do is share my photos.
So we did this without a care and carelessly, and now we are stuck between ease and an unrealistic view of the most difficult task ever.
What to do? Clearly there must be a middle way. Clearly just process the contact data on the local device without sending it anywhere, if you can. Perhaps make everyone go through a bunch of work annotating contacts with metadata to say “this one, but not that one”. Perhaps VCF databases need to include more metadata like “last modified” or “created on” or, and this is getting difficult now, because maybe you want to include something like “last contacted by” or “last received a message” and what, you want to track that at the OS level and then make it available to other applications? Are you joking? What, do you want some sort of universal inbox while you’re at it?
Such a mess.