Why’d you like that celebrity photo on Instagram? Why’d you leave that restaurant review on Yelp? Why’d you text in lowercase, or turn on read receipts, or share your location? Ashley Carman and Kaitlyn Tiffany ask real people the hard, meta, and occasionally silly questions about the way technology influences our thinking, changes our behavior, and affects our social lives. Produced by The Verge and the Vox Media Podcast Network.
This week on Why’d You Push That Button, we’ve been hypnotized by the romance of New York in December and we’re acting accordingly! Twinkle lights, snow banks, and love letters. I recommend listening with a cup of hot chocolate or a bucket of that popcorn that has the little paper dividers between the three flavors. Get cozy; hold hands.
The big question: how do you decide to delete or save text threads from friends, family, or significant others? If you have 3GB of texts from an ex, you’re never actually going to scroll back to the beginning, so why can it feel so hard to let go? If you have absolutely no old texts on your phone, what is wrong with you, just wondering?
This episode was inspired by Maureen O’Connor’s 2013 New York Magazine essay “All My Exes Live in Texts,” which I am obsessed with, and in which she argues that we can’t let go of old relationships' digital artifacts because they represent “a dozen soap operas playing at the same time on a dozen different screens, and you are the star of them all.” Wow! A little cynical, but at least 100 percent true if you’re being honest with yourself.
To get some alternative angles on this topic, we spoke to freelance writer and former Racked shopping and style editor Nicola Fumo, who has a complicated system for saving and curating the messages she cares about. (Her system was inspired by the one, the only Kim Kardashian West.) Then we called up my college boyfriend Sean, and the two of us had a weird little moment that was ultimately fine. He also explained how deleting texts makes for stilted friendships and missed plans.
Finally, we took all of our questions to Michelle Janning, a professor of sociology at Whitman College who’s dedicated her career to studying the differences between digital and physical communication, with a particular focus on how we decide what to save, how to save it, and when to look back at it. Her book, Love Letters: Saving Romance in the Digital Age, will be out sometime in 2018. She had so much wisdom to share and we couldn’t believe she was real.
(sent via text by Kaitlyn Tiffany)