But the availability of statistical information can sometimes be irresistible, and it can change how we perceive things—it can bring a Moneyball effect to our social lives, where instead of trusting our instincts and our senses, we believe the numbers. I used to examine the information about the hits this blog received, but then that info started to paralyze me, making me question whom I should be trying to reach, what they might expect, how to boost my numbers, etc.Interesting. Excuse me. I'm gonna go count the comments on this blog. H/t Marginal Revolution.
Those numbers without question tell an accurate story about what (little) this blog accomplishes, but that’s not the only story and it wasn’t one that helped me. It wouldn’t help me by the same token to be able to evaluate friendships that way—I think I’m too insecure for that. But when my friend group shifts online, someone at some point will be able to market that data to me, I’m afraid, and in a moment of weakness I’ll find out more than I want to know.
In fact, communications technology may carry with it the danger of exacerbating neediness; it can potentially bring out the borderline personality in all of us—if a friend could have called, then why didn’t he? Why doesn’t he pick up when I call his cell phone? If she saw I was online, then why didn’t she IM me? Why is it taking her so long to reply to my last IM? Is she IMing with someone else right now? Is that person more important than me? If I have so much access to everyone, then why do I feel ignored?
I admit, it takes special breed of paranoia to go down that avenue, but inciting insecurity has been a commercial strategy since the advent of advertising—ads are always quick to remind us of how bad our breath smells and how bad our hair looks and what a bad impression our suit gives off and so on. I don’t think it’s beyond the realm of possibility for the communications industry to want to induce that paranoia about our friends, for so many cents a minute, so many cents a text message.