I’ve recently posted, or at least tweeted, a crazy but informed interpretation to one of my teen playlist songs, Iron Maiden’s Phantom of the Opera. There’s also Nightwish’s version, and from that you can tell I’m a metal dude. At least I used to be. And this is the kind of trait that people see when I go out the street — unless the hair is tied in a ponytail. And so it used to be for many years. God, I hated when I forgot my thing in the bathroom and had to take the train and go out the windy street with my hair untied. I had to look presentable for the business people. That didn’t happen, to the point of me having to ask the receptionist once, who was a great friend, for an elastic band. Once I invited her to a concert I was playing. I waited over half an hour while she made up her mind, and gave up. She always looked gorgeous, though she didn’t need much. Now whatever your preferences in music are, and no matter how long you take getting dressed and ready for work (I mean, people who read my blog have a job, right?), the circumstances that you have to be able to capture and be ready to react to appropriately when going out the street have been changing.
From the social media viral videos of people screaming at strangers because of a gay kiss or the color of their shirt, which is apparently the ultimate test of personality and moral integrity, to how comfortable you are with wearing cheap or expensive clothes, and where: that changes when we’re talking about Instagram. Except that we’ve all heard this story: people portray themselves as something they’re not, and the creation of BeReal is proof of that, sort of. They just forgot to mention that cameras can be disabled remotely by hackers, because who would share information like that, correct? So you may see the guys at the gym and the girls playing with their dogs; you roll your eyes when God reminds you it’s not really the absolute total of cases and Jesus wouldn’t judge people based on looks, especially not on social media, which is just a small fraction of who they are, whether or not they’re hungry or thirsty for a reenactment of The Supper. Follows are creepy; comments are abusive; DMs are a police case. But who the fuck told you that?
If we look at Google (which is free for all, and in fact has built the operational system that Gen Z grew up thinking is life itself), you’ll notice that you can toggle on an off a beautiful feature called “safe search”. Meta isn’t like that: it eliminates the right to choose. I’ll repeat myself: after my screen cracked and I couldn’t make my camera work anymore, even though it came back after some physical and app-based cleaning (which was honestly a terrifying experience, because they tested frequencies and all kinds of weird shit), I figured my camera wasn’t gonna come back. But the standard camera app on my phone works normally. Instagram, specifically, won’t allow my camera. This was after I was getting slightly (I emphasize this) more active on TikTok and Snapchat, predominantly teen apps. Do you wanna comment on today’s teens? Anyway, nobody has the time and the joke’s on them, so far. But they think they’re winning some kind of competition. I just read about this crypto guy who’s 30 years old and apparently has ties with the MIT (everyone knows that’s the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, right?) — 26 billion dollar net worth. Excuse me, I’m 33 and my area is tech culture. My reference isn’t Noam Chomsky, though. I think the man’s brilliant, but I pursue other paths, as you can tell from the way I write blogs. The idea that people are trading crypto, for me, is like betting on who’s gonna need to have a tough conversations with their parents — and then, of course, running away from that at all costs, quite literally. Nothing more than that: self-indulgent if you’re nice; a cancer if you’re niche — except if you remember that a certain Mindgeek affiliated company pays in USDT. We could go in circles here, but my point is: the younger generation thinks about compensation very differently, and wants it now; the bigger tech companies operate with a certain margin of risk; the mainstream social media companies are debating whether or not the “risk” is a national security matter or just the burdens and embarrassments of having a lazy kid.
The event with my camera is particularly interesting not just because fintech uses facial recognition software now (and so you can imagine the margin for fraud); on that note, Santander started applying biometrics around the year 2016, if I’m not mistaken (or at least that’s when I was asked to do it). That’s a big Spanish turned international bank founded in the mid 19th century with publicly traded stocks, not a smartass invention from someone who was bored. Now… speaking of that: whether or not it’s a lazy kid or a bright kid, hyperactive or antisocial, and so the profiles go on, everyone’s going to get bored. And if you make a doomscrolling joke, get the fuck out of here. You get bored, you chase people on the internet; isn’t that fun? Well… Instagram thinks the hashtag “bored” violates the community guidelines. I mean, that’s the argument I made on my 20 minute video I can’t post because either Instagram, my ISP or my nosey neighbors won’t allow, but we had a pandemic with the entire world (so we thought) stuck in their homes, and then the biggest social app in the planet (so we thought) decided to ban “bored” as a search. How on Earth does that make sense? The rushy conclusion would be that our next headline should be domestic abuse, but to get there, we need to understand where the abuse came from, or the serries of situations that would lead to frustration, then conflict, then at the end, authoritarianism. And suddenly, instead of an internet joke, we’d have debates on the endurance of democratic values. Let’s suppose that sort of happened. A question lingers: should we blame Hacker Lane or nah? Do we have the power and means to, outside of the US?
In the streets, not much like what Iron Maiden pictures, but maybe with a booming bass and drum from some car most likely bought with untrackable sources, someone’s going on a date. I mean, the date is the car, check out what’s in the glove compartment and maybe getting to roll, but let’s just picture a different situation. Young man wants to buy young woman a drink. They stop at the gas station or the liquor shop. Not judging, by the way (unless you steal my credit card, then I most definitely am judging and I’m not alone). The girl is wearing shorts and a top. The guy thinks Billie Eilish got everything right in terms of fashion, except she doesn’t care about sports. When someone else approaches them, completely oblivious and 100% uninterested in what the hell is up with them, that person gets spotted — because technology made that happen. That’s the idea of an app actually called Happn, without the e. What could possibly happen if I talk to strangers on the street? They might give me wrong directions (or they might beat me up if I mention politics). They might hit on me, they might tell me to fuck off. The app lets you know, as long as your data is turned on while you go out (and active with an internet carrier plan) exactly who crossed your path (but of course, they need the app installed too for that to actually materialize, in terms). When they were talking about contact tracing, they were studying GPS and health data in intersection. When they made Happn, they probably had a different dataset (got a guess?) and a different goal. Initiatives like Walk Safe have countered this, just like Lyft has countered Uber.
But who has countered stalking? Sure, I’d love to know that someone masturbates while I’m having a panic attack. It would probably save my life. But I wouldn’t know — not ever. And let’s be clear about this: they might be masturbating not thinking about me at all, which is important to say. And I’m so, so sorry if the word masturbation is more of a trigger to you than getting beat up on the street for wearing your favorite tee shirt. The fact is, when I come home, I don’t keep thinking about the girls I met on the street. Who am I, some fucking psychopath? I’m thinking about my plans, where to go next, my routine. Things I need to buy, friends I haven’t talked to for a while. Pubs, and shit. I’m not thinking: “OH MY GOD, WHO IS THIS? MMM!” — but apparently, for the younger generation (and I’m able to speak this with relative, but ridiculously questionable confidence), the whole process is naturalized. If Happn didn’t exist, they’d never think their phones were being tracked. And so when they found out that screenshotting was a built-in feature on their phones, they all started to steal each other’s work, but also the right to privacy. Further, the people who never gave a shit about younger people being educated to serve a better purpose in society wanted to create an ideal user that spoke to everyone in town and picked who they wanted to stalk first. Without exaggeration, but at the danger of being censored, I can say this kind of ideology is pervasive in tech culture, and nobody’s ever Googled the term restraining order. Some of them have filed those, but don’t seem to have a strong opinion or even basic knowledge on immigration laws and data protection laws, which I personally find very disconcerting, if not absolutely petty.