I Am Not A Product (and neither are my friends)

Your LunchI just read a comic piece that said that, without Facebook, people would have to go door-to-door showing other people their lunch.

This is taking “you are what you eat” much too far. People are a lot more interesting than what they ate for lunch!

I believe this problem has developed because we have allowed the underlying structure of the Facebook service to drive our content when we are using it. This service, which seems free, is actually costly because it manipulates and diminishes our connection to one another.

Here are some truisms about what happens online:

As little as 3 seconds counts as a (billable) viewing of a page on many sites. It just makes sense that if you drive everybody into the same massive corral (keep scrolling…keep scrolling…), people (referred to in the biz as “eyeballs”) will spend 3 or more seconds there just trying to find one another. It’s billable and profitable for a site owner, but I couldn’t yell “fire” in three seconds. (Nope. Tried it. Didn’t work.)

When you do finally locate your friend, you’ve been so assaulted by other things “you might like” that your emotional readiness to interact has been dissipated. Gee, Deb, I’ve really been thinking about you a lot … but maybe I should buy snow tires.

If the service is free, you are the product. Was that what you had in mind when you started building the service’s list for it? Oh, you thought it was for you? Noooo.

All we have to do to recoup our power over our own conversations and to restore them to the quality that created the relationships in the first place is this:

Take Back Offline!

It’s easier than it has ever been, really. My phone follows me everywhere. Even if I can’t answer it right then, it records and types out messages for me. Or you could type one yourself. I’m good with that. I have text. I have email.

(You will be competing with the cat food coupons for space in the email box, to be honest. I’m a set of eyeballs there, too.)

We could do lunch in person, or maybe you’ll like my own favorite way to connect: by way of the mailbox right outside my door.

I just love getting letters and cards in my mailbox, and the passion for it goes back decades earlier than my current business involvement. There was that summer in junior high school when a girl I knew at the time and I exchanged letters with wax seals on the envelopes and Peanuts cartoons clipped from the newspaper inside. There was my college buddy who wrote beautiful script on heavy cream paper with a Koh-i-Noor drawing nib pen.

I’ve never forgotten receiving those letters. I still have them somewhere. Being sent them meant something to me. There are not a lot of big occasions in daily life, but that moment when a letter opener goes “criiiiisp”ing through an envelope is a kind of minor magic.

However, when I only get to see your blurb like a billboard next to a fast-moving freeway, I feel the diminution of the connection and that makes me feel less special.

Send me something in the mail and you have my absolute and undivided attention, just as if you were standing in the room right in front of me.

It’s been my experience that if you worry about something, if it niggles at the back of your mind but you tell yourself it doesn’t really matter, it probably really does matter a lot. Don’t make your friends and customers feel less special. If too little of your life doesn’t happen “In Real Life” (IRL as they say online) lately, fix that. It’s too easy not to fix.

Show somebody your lunch in real life.

Look them in the eye over theirs.

Maybe even “like” them in person.

By the way, some people may be confused or shy about doing this, so I made a novel way for you to ask for a lunch date. Email us if you’re interested in that. You’re welcome.

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