Discover more from The Internet Is Vast
They Are Listening - 53023
“Perhaps a lunatic was simply a minority of one.” - George Orwell
This very newsletter might be causing today’s topic in your life more frequently. If you are a victim, please let me know in the comments.
Heads up! This Thursday is the first Internet Scavenger Hunt. The rules are simple: be the first to post a comment with the correct answer (must be a subscriber) and I buy you coffee.
Let’s jump in …
The Daily Rabbit Hole: “Pancake-Loving Turtle, a Family Heirloom, Kidnapped From Home He’s Visited for Years”
This is an actual New York Times headline from August 22nd, 1925.
When I was a kid in the 90s, I recall attending a Texas Rangers baseball game in Arlington and learning, during the course of the game, what an “error” is in baseball. It stuck out because I didn’t know it before the game, and I thought it was weird to call some sort of statistic an “error” since that word is widely used to describe mistakes of all kinds. This isn’t the most interesting story, except for the fact that suddenly I started seeing and hearing it everywhere. Sportscenter host discussions, billboards, the newspaper, even a reference to it in my fourth grade class.
For a long time, I thought the world had just discovered it as well and we were all in this together with this uniquely named baseball statistic.
The ‘Wait, What?’ Vortex: Lightning Doesn’t Strike the Same Place Twice, (unless you are Apollo 12)
“less than 20 seconds later (and with the spacecraft already having moved another 20 miles or so farther up away from the ground), lightning struck again.”
Why is this everywhere? …
The Baader-Meinhoff phenomenon (also known as the “Frequency Illusion” if you want to sound less pretentious in your next conversation about it) happens to all of us. It happens when we are suddenly inundated with something we recently discovered or learned … seemingly everywhere. At its core, the theory is used to explain why some things seem to happen more frequently than they actually do. Anyone who knows me, knows I frequently use it to explain why it seems like Facebook is listening to you - serving you an ad about a product just after you discussed it with your friends.
The reality is that these companies do not have the capacity to just be recording the entire world’s conversations all at once (yet?), just to sell you some specific set of razors. Instead, your phone was seen in proximity with someone who just bought a specific product that they are likely to talk to you about when you are interacting. Then, because it is suddenly top of mind, you actually recall the ad being served to you instead of it fading into oblivion like so many others normally do.
Does the proximity and location aspect of this count as less creepy than listening? I’ll let you be the judge. However clever targeting is how the Internet works, and how consumerism multiplies. In essence, I love this phenomenon because since I learned the premise of it I have been forced to replay numerous things I believed to be odd about my life - like learning what an error is - with a different lens.
When something is fresh or newly discovered, the part of your brain that would have normally turned off, tunes in further.
We have less control over our own capacity to think than we’d care to admit, and that ladies and gentlemen, is endlessly fascinating.
By reading you have unwittingly agreed to subscribe. Sorry, I don’t make the rules. The Internet does.