Addendum I: Algorithmic Intimacy
One day, a friend of mine in New York City is on OKCupid, Bumble, or Hinge. He encounters the profile of a young woman and matches with her. He introduces himself with a joke based on the cultural signifiers in her profile, as is the habit of our time. She doesn’t respond.
Months later, I am sitting with him in a restaurant at the only two open seats left at the bar. At the end of our corner, there is a young woman sitting alone. My friend and the young woman strike up a conversation that seems to have a certain spark to it. Eventually, the realization occurs to her, or maybe she’d known all along: “Did we… match online?” She apologizes for not replying to his message and they keep chatting with increasing animation.
Would this flash of intimacy have occurred without the intervention of the algorithm that introduced them? Not so quickly, I think, if at all. The algorithm added a certain missing context through which they identified each other; it can be comforting, even helpful to feel recognized by the machine. He gets her phone number.