The Internet Café

A myth of social media is connecting the world, allowing you to be globally connected to people you met at some point in your life.

If we transposed having interactions with friends on social media into the analogue world, it would be like agreeing to meet in a cafe in the midst of a large advertising convention filled with bright colourful screens and messages blaring from loudspeakers.

“People you know ordered this drink, would you like to try it as well?”
“Excuse me, would you please speak louder, it is very noisy here.”

While perusing the cafe’s menu, you’d first have to sit through at least 5 seconds of video advertising before seeing the menu items. Also try to ignore the menu’s webcam analysing your eye movements as you search the menu.

After starting a conversation, your friends would be regularly distracted by people handing them urgent messages. People from neighbouring tables would interject to say they like something one of you said or show you pictures of the delicious food they had the prior evening. Distant acquaintances would stop by to implore you to join their network of distant acquaintances, donate to some desperate and worthy cause or support their artistic endeavours by buying their handcrafted trinkets.

You hear bitter mutterings from a neighbouring table about dark social. “Is that like the seedy dark web?” you think. A quick search reveals that dark social is a term that describes the trove of social traffic that is essentially invisible to most analytics programs. The term comes from an article in The Atlantic by Alexis C. Madrigal “Dark Social: We Have the Whole History of the Web Wrong”.

That is really what social media is mostly about: gathering and analysing our data. As Bill Maher said: “The tycoons of social media have to stop pretending that they are friendly nerd gods building a better world and admit they’re just tobacco farmers in T-shirts selling an addictive product. Let’s face it, checking your likes is the new smoking.”

Back in the analogue world, you have a deep and varied conversation with your friends while enjoying excellent coffee in a tranquil café. All have agreed to leave their phones out of sight.

homo serendipitous