OMG IFTTT is OTT

Imagine being at a party and a man starts a conversation by showing you a collection of 10×8 glossy prints of his colonoscopy. You be a little startled not to mention mildly revolted. Or when you innocently say “looks like a nice day today” to the postman and he then lists the average temperatures for today for each year since 1874. Time to put the anti-serial killer squad on speed dial. You see there is a real danger of overshare in modern life.

This is how I felt when I started using an excellent but slightly OCD app called IFTTT (If This Then That). Let me start by saying that I am pretty organised, OK let’s be frank, mildly over-organised. My wife and I share linked grocery and to-do apps, our calendars sync but one person’s anal retentive is another person’s organised life. So I make no apologies. The danger I see is that people are automating life to an often ridiculous extent. Let me explain.

I welcome technology that makes my life easier. My phone’s lock switches off when I’m near my home wifi, I set automated alerts to remind me to send birthday cards and I use the wonderful Todoist app to take things out of my brain and organise them into a to-do list. So far, so normal. If I get a voicemail, a notification is placed in my to-do list so I can call the person back. When my tenants pay their rent, my bank sends me a text thus saving me the hassle of checking up on them. These and a host of other small conveniences are the oil in my daily gearbox. Odd phrase but you know what I mean.

But when does it get out of control?

IFTTT is a clever system that links together disconnected web services. So at a simple level, it can backup a copy of your phone contacts to Google Drive (or why not just use Gmail). It can save a copy of your Instagram photo to Dropbox. You get the idea. All very heart warming for us of the mild OCD persuasion. 

Sadly, for some this sensible tending of one’s data garden isn’t enough and they wish to use the power of IFTTT to spew an endless stream of PO (personal overshare) to their massive army of ‘friends’ and ‘followers’, 80% of whom they hardly know. Here are some examples.

  • Post their GPS location to Facebook. Every time they change location a message is posted on Facebook. For 99% of their boring lives they will be telling people, that they went to work, popped out to the supermarket, went home and went to work again. 
  • Post their ‘fave’ tracks from Last FM to Twitter. This happened to me with an ex-colleague and now ex-Twitter follower. ‘Jon’s top tracks this week were Shake your Booty by Ghana Bus Stop, Sex up your Groove Thing by Pubic Lice and Hurting Inside by Prolapsed Rectum’. I have absolutely no interest in what a guy a worked with five years ago is listening to.
  • Post your steps from Jawbone to Facebook. Do I really care that some distant cousin or casual acquaintance has done 3129 steps today? How does that make me feel? Will I remember it so I can comment attentively when I next see her? “Hello Janet, I noticed you only did 214 steps on Thursday 14th, and your relationship status changed to single and your Ocado order was full of cakes. Are you comfort eating because your ex-boyfriendI dumped you? Should I inform Weight Watchers?”
  • Publish the current weather to Twitter. This defines dull. Do I care that raining in Reigate or sunny in Stockport. No of course I don’t and if I want to know what the weather is like where I live I’ll just LOOK OUR OF THE F’ING WINDOW rather than waiting for a Tweet from statingthebleedingobvious.com (free with in-app purchase)

The problem with so many of these services is that they remove the sense of discovery when you meet long lost friends. In olden days it was called ‘having a bit of a catch up’. You’d sit down with an old friend and spend an hour catching up on their lives and they on yours. You got to focus on the good bits and give them a potted history of your recent past. Now so many people are broadcasting their daily activities there is no mystery or surprise.

“Hello Pete, how was the holiday in Crete,? Glad that Jeanie passed her exams, pity about Mr Tiggles, good news that the piles have cleared up. I see Mrs Jones from number 27 is off with the milkman, do you like your new Hyundai Coronary?, still sore after the vasectomy? Notice you’ll be skiing in February, the office Christmas party looked wild? Saw it was raining down your way again”

“Me I’m fine” 

So, to sum up. I enjoy IFTTT for those tiny, nuanced improvements to my daily life. For the rest of the narcissistic overshare, please don’t or I’ll have nothing to talk to you about.

 

 

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