I knew it. I’m being watched. I’ve thought so for a long time and now I know it for sure. My husband and I have been traveling. We’re just preparing to leave our hotel when I notice a message on my cell phone saying that local transit system information has been added to the maps on my phone. We have a car; we won’t be needing the transit system, but still, how thoughtful. And how weird.
Who added the information to my phone maps and how did they know I was here? Half the time, I don’t know where I am. I can’t decide if it’s reassuring or creepy that someone else does.
And it’s not just my smartphone watching my every move. Amazon knows what I want before I want it. They send me half a dozen emails every day telling me I’d probably like this or that book, and they’re right. I probably would. I see a day coming when they deliver products we haven’t even ordered yet because they’re so sure we will.
My Fitbit is like Santa Clause without the gifts. It knows when I am sleeping. It knows when I’m awake. It knows how many steps I take, so I better walk more, for goodness sake.
And then there’s the all-knowing, all-seeing Facebook. It regularly names people it thinks I might know. And I do know many of them. It suggests people I should send birthday greetings to, and it’s right; I probably should. It puts ads on my page promoting products and events it thinks I’ll be interested in, and I am often interested in them. Facebook knows everything because we tell Facebook everything. And then it tells everybody else.
Pandora knows my taste in music. Twitter knows my taste in timewasting drivel. And LinkedIn knows what jobs I should apply for if the one I have falls through because I can’t deal with technology anymore.
I can’t decide if I’m being followed by a team of very efficient personal assistants or a gang of peeping toms. Sometimes I’m annoyed that they watch my every move. Other times, I think they’re taking over my life and doing a better job with it. Sometimes I think they interfere; other times I wish they’d do more. Why can’t they message me that we’re out of milk before I get all the way home and have to go back to the store? Why can’t they tell me whether the dishes in the dishwasher are dirty or clean? Why can’t they load and unload the dishwasher?
Mostly, my stalkers help me navigate through my life metaphorically and geographically. I hate to admit it, but I’m starting to wonder how I would get along without them. They must wonder too. Every weekday morning, there’s a message on my cell phone telling me what route I should take to work. How does it know? I didn’t add my location to my phone and probably couldn’t if I tried. But why would I? I already know how to get there.
Once I’m at work, my phone tells me the best route back home. I don’t know what’s more disturbing: That it knows where I live, or that it doesn’t think I do.