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I just finished reading, The Every, by Dave Eggers. The novel is basically about a monopoly tech company that dominates humanity and a woman’s efforts to destroy it. In the book, the Every introduces (among many other things) two apps, Friendy and SumNum. Friendy is “like a lie detector test. It tells you if someone’s honest, candid. This (the app) senses any untruth.” The app displays a number that represents the overall quality of friendship. “You know the stats about friendship. You live longer and healthier if you have quality friendships. That’s why the slogan Who are your real friends? was written in a sharp and accusatory font (on the screen). It’s about quality, not quantity,”

SumNum is “one number that includes everything, cradle to grave. Grades in school, childhood behavioral issues, missed days, college records, test scores, any criminal behavior, workplace demerits, traffic tickets, suspicious travel, anomalous walk patterns, TruVoice dings, HereMe revelations, PrefCom adherence…Your Shame Aggregate. Purchasing history, payment history, credit issues, zip code. Every message sent and received, health and exercise assessments. Quantity and quality of friendships. Everything would get factored into one number.”

I found these creations disturbing.

On Monday, I had lunch with a friend and a friend of his that I was interested in meeting. My friend’s friend asked me why I wanted to meet him, and I told him that based on my friend’s description I thought he was an interesting person, and we would make a good connection. About an hour into our lunch, he asked me if he was living up to my friend’s description and would I rate my level of satisfaction (my words) with him on a scale of 1-10.

His question hit me awkwardly and I became very comfortable. My reaction was totally noticeable as I shifted in my seat, crossed my arms over my chest, shared an astonished look and an audible “wow.”I think my reaction had something to do with having read the concepts in this book, but also the idea of grading a person, labeling them, after one hour was inconceivable to me (especially right there in from to him). And we (I?) do it all the time.

Oh, we might not rate people on a scale of 1-10 (though many a man has used this scale to “rate” a woman’s attractiveness. And vice versa?) Some folks are very happy to number/label themselves…take the enneagram. But aren’t we conditioned to label each other? Put each other in little boxes? So, we have context, right?  But is your 6 the same as mine? Hmmm…I ain’t feeling it.

How about showing up to a MenLiving Full House meeting. Might be 10-20 guys in the virtual room. Do you begin to make judgements, give labels, grade the guys by the way they look, talk? And does that grading process stop you from reaching out, engaging, exploring? I fear this process can inhibit some wonderful connection/interaction. I know it has for me.

Back to lunch. I told my new friend (yes, friend. I was digging him, and I think we did make for a good connection) that I respected his openness and directness, but “grading” him after an hour didn’t work for me nor did labeling. With that done (but maybe still hanging in the room a bit), we continued our conversation for another hour or so. It was deep, open, and revealing. I give it a solid 7. ????

Got thoughts?

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