It happened just as I flopped down in my chair, ready to relax after a long day of work.  I had been looking forward to an hour or two of mindless social media scrolling.  My brain was in the process of shutting down already.

But then the phone rang.  I stared at the jangling beast angrily.  I never answered the phone anymore.  Who would be asking me for money now?

Going against my instincts, I picked it up.  “Hello?”

“Hey.”  It was a friend of mine.

“What’s up?”

“Why did you unfriend me?”

“What?”  What was she thinking asking me that question?  Didn’t she know that went against every rule of etiquette?

“I’m not an idiot.  I can see that you’re not on my friends list anymore.”

“It’s nothing personal!  It was a social score thing.”

“Oh, okay.  You’re right then, it wasn’t personal.”  Her tone was sarcastic.

“See, that’s the problem.  You’re way too sensitive about this stuff.  It’s only Facebook.  Jesus.”

“I don’t know.  You took it seriously enough to unfriend me.”

“Well, you keep posting political crap.  What’s the point of that anyway?  You know that arguing politics online is a waste of time.”

“Maybe…”  She hesitated.

“Look, I’m not going to tell you what to do with your life.  It’s your own business if you don’t care about your social score, but you’re bringing everybody else’s score down, too, because they’re friends with you.  You can’t blame people if they want to back off from that.”

“I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to do that to you.”

“There are only a gazillion other topics you could post about…your cats, your favorite restaurants.  Things you’d love to buy.  Those kinds of posts would make your friends happy, and they’re approved by Facebook.”

“You know that I do try to post updates about my life.”

“And that’s the other problem.  You’re way too negative.  Negativity brings your score down, too.  The last couple of updates you made were whiny.”

“I got fired from my job.  I wasn’t feeling very happy.”

“Do I have to explain the basics to you?  Just make sure to add something positive to your post to balance it out.  You know, say something like I feel kinda sad today because I was fired, but I know a much better job is just around the corner!”

“But I don’t think there is a better job around the corner.”

“You don’t really have to believe it.  Just stick it in at the end.  Everyone will get what you’re trying to do.”

“Sure.”  She sounded defeated.  “I don’t understand why we have to be so obsessed with our social scores.”

“Well, maybe you don’t care about getting discounts on your expenses, but I do.  Not everyone can afford to pay full price for everything.  It helps me out when my score adds up.  If it goes up by 200 more points, I can get a bigger TV.”

“Okay.  Congrats.  I’m happy for you.  I guess I’ll keep my opinions to myself from now on.”

“Social media just isn’t the place for them.  You can tell people your opinions face to face.”

“But we never talk in person anymore.”

“Erm…”  I had no idea how to reply to that.  I squirmed in my chair, trying to come up with some pleasant but noncommittal answer.

But I didn’t need to.  There was only a disconnected beeping in my ear.  She had hung up on me–thank God.

Note:  This story is my attempt to imagine what an American version of the Sesame Credit program would look like.  Sesame Credit is a social media program which the Chinese government is in the process of implementing.  This article is a good basic breakdown of how it’s supposed to work.

Yesterday, as always, I was spending my time on the train obsessively checking Facebook on my phone, as were about half of my fellow passengers.  Once in a while, I stop and realize it–I spend more time than ever following every little thing my friends say, and yet less time than ever in my life actually talking to friends face to face.  

I’ve always been an introvert.  I would get anxious about making a phone call, even if it was to a person I liked (sometimes especially if it was to a person I liked).  I had to push myself to go out and meet people, and still have to.  So our new “chatting with each other through tech gadgets” culture actually makes things easier for me.  I feel much more comfortable commenting on someone’s status on my phone than I would be using that phone to speak to them.  I’m more comfortable spouting my opinions in a blog than at a dinner party.  So this feels fine to me, except for small moments of doubt when I wonder if I should be spending my time playing with real cats as opposed to viewing cat pictures.  (Answer to that question:  no, because I’m allergic to cats.)

But I can only imagine how difficult this new world might be for people who, unlike me, need human interaction.  What would it be like to be a gregarious extrovert in a world in which all you get are virtual hugs and pokes on Facebook?

Then again, the extroverts are probably still doing those things that always made me nervous, making phone calls and meeting their friends.  That’s why they’re out partying on a Friday night and I’m here blogging about modern modes of communication.  Well, that and I’m working tomorrow, so I can’t stay up.  Good night, everyone in online land.