More than just data points

(Update Nov 21: I should revisit this post about the quantification of relationship below to include more critical views regarding neuroatypicality, which I sorely lack awareness of and in the process of learning more. If this hasn’t been updated yet, know if you read it, you should consider your thoughts along those lines too.)

I received news from my supervisor that I have another week to receive feedback about my thesis corrections. Which means, I have another week of possibly lounging around. I say possibly because one could never think how hard it is to just lounge around without any sense of guilt finally creeping in before one starts conjuring some tasks to busy oneself, which includes checking books out of the library and reading them voraciously in this longest one week of awaiting what sort of pummelling feedback one would receive.

Which is why I am thankful when the third season of The Crown Season 3 dropped this week, because it means I have the entire week to binge the entire season while obsessively fact-checking the events through the Internet. I LOVE Olivia Colman, but I was somewhat skeptical as to how the third season would fare seeing how fantastic Claire Foy, Matt Smith, and the rest of the original cast were, but I was so wrong. Olivia Colman, Tobias Menzies et. al owned the new season effortlessly and almost without friction, almost made me forgot how these were different people altogether off screen, and Helena Bonham Carter as the lively Princess Margaret was iconic. At this point of time I am convinced that if there was an entire movie where Olivia Colman was just to sit down and read her entire grocery list, I would still probably watch.

The best and most heartbreaking episode? Aberfan. Look it up first if you want — or don’t — either way, be prepared with lots of tissues.

Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth II on The Crown Season 3

I’m very amused upon finding this article on a slew of new start-ups who want to help people manage their relationship the way they would with sales leads. In turn, your friends and your families are turned into data points, and we all know our relationships are not something to be measured solely through quantifications, but this is somehow what this is turning into (I gagged at the mention of ‘quantified self movement’).

The most recent class of start-ups to come out of the prestigious Y Combinator accelerator program included three such companies, Axios reported in August, under the headline “Startups’ New Frontier: Optimizing Your Friendships.” In fact, there are so many personal-CRM apps, you might need a spreadsheet to keep track of all their names and taglines—each a little remix of the others, contorting adorably around the limitations of the friendship-software vocabulary to say, ultimately, the same chilling thing.

There’s Dex, “a tool to turn acquaintances into allies.” Clay, “an extension of your brain, purposefully built to help you remember people.” “Forgetting personal details?” Hippo “helps you stay attentive [and] keep track of friends, family and colleagues you care for,” for just $1.49 a month. Plum Contacts sends reminders to message your friends, and rewards you with cartoon berries that “indicate how strong your relationship is.” “Build the relationships you always wish you had,” the UpHabit site promises.

There are more! “When life gets busy, sometimes we need to be reminded to enjoy our most meaningful relationships,” the creators of Garden write on their website. “Your relationships are secured for today!” the activity-completion page on Ryze announces once you’ve taken care of all your “following up.” Ntwrk promises to make its users into better friends, mentors, siblings, salespeople, and networkers; reminders to reach out also come with a summary of “what you last chatted about.” Social Contact Journal provides anniversary reminders and prewritten message templates.

Not everyone is a fan of this — including me, and this is coming from someone as a radical planner (my friends’ birthdays are plotted across the Google Calendar with reminders a day before, and I personally remember close friends’ birthdays):

But when he told some of the people on the list about it, they didn’t care what colour they were coded—it was the list’s very existence that they said signals something awry in a friendship. “They were bothered because I transformed our friendship into something on a Google Docs and not something that was lived,” he says. “They don’t like the mediation of technology helping our friendship growing stronger.”

I guess the problem isn’t largely with the quantification of yourselves into rows and columns on a spreadsheet, it’s going back to the fact that behind all of these data points — the ones you’re plotting into spreadsheets and inputting into these apps of whose personal data will be taken anyway (there is this question about ethics too as you input personal details of your friends into this app without informed consent and these apps have them at their disposal) — that these are actual human beings. But I also do understand some people need this way of quantification as a way to audit the quality and direction of their relationships with their friends and families, so I guess, some bit of balance between both?

Some related, some not:

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