Sunday, 27 April 2014

Tinder? This isn’t speed dating, this is "speed dumping"

Tinder. It’s an App that does for dating what Facebook did for friendships - cropspraying a cloud of potential dates at your phone and asking you to address the complex issue of your personal attraction towards them by moving your thumb over a animated button. In other words, it’s the entire seduction cycle reduced to 0.45 seconds. This isn’t speed dating, this is speed dumping.

Dumping 2.0 
Though you’d probably expect this blog to raise its concerns with such a blinkard approach to human relationships, this blog isn’t going to, because as far as I can see, speed dumping is nothing new. In fact it's no different than what goes on on the average Saturday night dancefloor across the country. Let's face it, humanity’s been perfecting ways to dump people for centuries; what is evolution itself but precision-engineered, systematic dumping?

Dumping each other links us back to our history, our cultural past. What, after all, is the difference between the artful coquettes and fan-waving of Austen's England and a crowd full of moon-eyed clubbers vomiting MDMA-spiked chasers on one another in the toilet of a Romford nightclub? Dumping people now comes with exciting twenty first century frills and swipe sound effects, and we should celebrate it. This is dumping 2.0.

Do I know you? We’ve only got 158 friends in common
In any case, Generation Text is quite used to reducing complex emotions into messages of maximum accessibility, as anybody will know who’s ever consoled anyone over the death of their children by sending them a text saying ‘Hugs’ followed by a smiley. Since 2011 humanity has largely streamlined the subtelties of human expression down to clicking on a Facebook ‘Like’ button, a creatively ambiguous phrase that can lead to some suprising exchanges, such as this one that appeared in my newsfeed: 

 Some of you knew we were getting married and still to this day almost three months later haven't said a thing. That tells me you're probably jealous that two people, neither of whom is you, have found each other and are happy about it while you're a disgusting turd who loves themselves more than anyone else and whose longest relationship will probably be with someone you have to pay.

7 people like this.

Among the comments this was my favourite:

 I clicked Like. Was I supposed to send a present as well?

Somehow that says more about Facebook than an entire Aaron Sorkin screenplay. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got better people to talk to. Consider yourself dumped.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Don’t worry if you haven’t got any qualifications

‘I know what your circumstances are, don’t worry,’ the bloke said, glancing at us with sympathy. 'We're here to offer hope.' 

He was a middle aged man in a faded shirt who smelt of crushed dreams and late night ironing. Beside me the others on the Job Centre training course stared into space: tattooed blokes wondering where all the manual jobs went; gum-chewing teens; a straw-haired woman whose gaze seemed to speak of profound and tragic futility. 

‘It’s been good to me, the AA,’ the bloke continued. ‘I came when I was nineteen. Got a wife and two kids now.’ He gazed at a ray of sunlight slanting in through the window, like an ex-hostage attempting to overcome years of trauma.

A pretty girl at the back sullenly checked her mobile.

There were a couple of 'Aptitude' tests to see if we were really the elite squad of call centre operatives the AA was looking for. I realised there must be an error as soon as I opened the 'Literacy' section. My paper didn't appear to be aimed at a fully-functioning adult; rather it was written in the tone of voice you'd use to address a tree.

1. It was cold, so I put on my_________ 
     a)    car;
     b)    bed;
     c)    coat;
     d)    DVD player.

2. The lady ran back to get her __________
      a)     leg;
      b)     handbag;
      c)     head.

I looked up. Was this for real? 

3. People play football all over the _________
    a) biscuit;
    b) football;
    c) boots;
    d) world.

In the end I found the only way I could get through the whole thing was to shut my eyes and effectively answer the questions blind, drawing random little circles in the hope they might connect with an answer. It was a sort of Jackson Pollock approach to multiple choice. 

17. Black is the opposite of _________
     a) a bell;
     b) black;
     c) white.

18. Jane drove to work in her  _________
     a) house;
     b) toaster;
     c) car.

‘Don’t worry if you haven’t got any qualifications,’ the bloke smiled kindly, glancing down at my sheet when I got to the bit about 'Past Work Experience'. I was about to put 'BA Russian Studies With Spanish Cinema', but concluded that knowing how to make marks on a piece of paper with a pen was probably sufficient.
I took my half-completed test to the guy at the desk and informed him that I’d be delighted if he would never, ever consider accepting me onto the training course answering inbound calls for the AA. He looked slightly crestfallen, as if I’d just turned down an invitation to his birthday party.
‘Was there a problem?’  

‘A problem?’

‘Everyone else was dead chuffed at the opportunity,' he said. 'The Job Centre will want to know why you've turned it down.' 

I gazed back at him and pictured myself smiling dumbly into oblivion beneath a headset as I tried to sell a woman extra breakdown cover while she picked pieces of her husband out of a pileup.

'You know what?' I said. ‘I just don’t think I’ve got what it takes.’