5 Things I’ve Learned About Life Through Text Messaging

Original article from Thought Catalogue.

1. People are passive aggressive

When text messages were invented, passive aggressive people around the world rejoiced and said, “THANK YOU JESUS! There’s now yet another medium I can use where I don’t have to express my true feelings to someone and can make them feel bad in a variety of subtle (and not-so-sublte) ways!” Text messaging has now become the # 1 way to find out if you’re in the dog house with a friend or lover. For example, if they reply to your texts curtly with a simple “okay.”, you know you’re up shit creek without a paddle. That period after the okay might as well be a fucking Bazooka gun. YOU ARE DEAD. (Being pissed over texts has become so common that people have become paranoid that a friend is angry at them when they’re, in fact, fine. “When you said “yes” to my “see you later tonight?” did you mean that in a bitchy, “I don’t really wanna see you” way” or were you actually just saying yes?”)

2. People are scared of intimacy

In the past few years of my life, I think I’ve had more meaningful “breakthrough” conversations over text messages than in real life, which is actually very sad. A lot of the milestones in my romantic relationships have transpired over text messages, like telling someone that you really like them and that they’re special and that you had an AMAZING time last night. My heart goes pitter patter over a sweet text message, more so than it does in real life. This is the new age of romance everybody, coming to the screen of an iPhone near you! Also, when there’s a problem in a relationship, people are more prone to first bring up the issue via text message than they are in real life. This makes more sense to me because with texting, you can carefully gather your thoughts and increase your chances of not being misinterpreted. No risk for verbal vomiting here, although text vomiting has been known to happen on occasion. Who here has had INSANE knockout fights over text message? They can be fucking brutal and oftentimes you say hurtful things you would never say in person because you don’t have to see the hurt expression on your partner’s face.

3. We are a bunch of horny and sexual monsters

When it comes down to it, it’s actually SO EASY to see someone naked. Texting is always thisclose to sexting. There’s something about the act of typing down thoughts and sending them over to someone that feels inherently sexual. Perhaps because it feels anonymous in a way? Again, it goes back to not having to face the person, so you feel like you can be more honest. Between Grindr, Vine, and SnapChat, it seems like a VERY sexy time to have a smart phone these days. Unfortunately, I still have a $10 Radio Shack phone that can’t even receive pictures. One time this guy sent me a picture of him in his briefs and my phone couldn’t load it. It literally had a seizure when the picture was downloading, so I had to lie and tell him that the picture was great and gave me an orgasm. SIGH.

4. Karma is a bitch

Have you ever been shit-talking someone with your friend over text message and then accidentally sent it to the person you’re bashing? I haven’t but so many of my friends have and it’s pretty much your worst nightmare come true. Like, there is no graceful way to get out of that situation. You’ve been caught red-handed. Your digital footprint is all over this scathing text. Do you ever get the feeling that your phone is a total mean girl that’s out to ruin your life? Between this and butt-dialing someone you’re currently talking about, I can’t help but wonder if your phone has a diabolical mind of its own.

5. We are sensitive beings

Technology hurts my feelings on a daily basis. Whether it’s because someone I like doesn’t follow me back on Twitter or I can tell if someone has read my Facebook message and has NOT responded, I basically need a bulletproof vest around my brain every time I sign online. However, nothing hurts more than waiting for a text message that will never come. Or it does come but it’s not exactly the text you had in mind. Then it’s hello tears, hello alienation and devastation. As embarrassing as it is to admit, we are all ruled by our phones. Receiving a good or a bad text can make or break our day. It’s so frustrating and yet there is no clear solution. We’re already in it deep. We made a deal with the devil when we agreed to have our lives “simplified” with technology. Now we’ve discovered just how raw and sensitive we really are.

Let’s Talk About Me

Original Article:by ROBERT LEE HOTZ

Talking about ourselves—whether in a personal conversation or through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter—triggers the same sensation of pleasure in the brain as food or money, researchers reported Monday.

About 40% of everyday speech is devoted to telling others about what we feel or think. Now, through five brain imaging and behavioral experiments, Harvard University neuroscientists have uncovered the reason: It feels so rewarding, at the level of brain cells and synapses, that we can’t help sharing our thoughts.

Bragging gives the same sensation of pleasure as food and money. The same areas of the brain are activated, scans show.

“Self-disclosure is extra rewarding,” said Harvard neuroscientist Diana Tamir, who conducted the experiments with Harvard colleague Jason Mitchell. Their findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “People were even willing to forgo money in order to talk about themselves,” Ms. Tamir said.

To assess people’s inclination for what the researchers call “self disclosure,” they conducted laboratory tests to see whether people placed an unusually high value on the opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings. They also monitored brain activity among some volunteers to see what parts of the brain were most excited when people talked about themselves as opposed to other people. The dozens of volunteers were mostly Americans who lived near the university.

In several tests, they offered the volunteers money if they chose to answer questions about other people, such as President Obama, rather than about themselves, paying out on a sliding scale of up to four cents. Questions involved casual matters such as whether someone enjoyed snowboarding or liked mushrooms on a pizza. Other queries involved personality traits, such as intelligence, curiosity or aggression.

Despite the financial incentive, people often preferred to talk about themselves and willingly gave up between 17% and 25% of their potential earnings so they could reveal personal information. “We joked that this was the penny for your thoughts study,” Ms. Tamir said.

In related tests, the scientists used a functional magnetic resonance imaging scanner, which tracks changes in blood flow between neurons associated with mental activity, to see what parts of the brain responded most strongly when people talked about their own beliefs and options, rather than speculating about other people.

Generally, acts of self disclosure were accompanied by spurts of heightened activity in brain regions belonging to the meso-limbic dopamine system, which is associated with the sense of reward and satisfaction from food, money or sex.

“It rings true to me,” said psychologist James Pennebaker at the University of Texas at Austin who studies how people handle secrets and self-disclosure, but was not involved in the project. “We love it if other people listen to us. Why else would you tweet?”

Emo Cities

Aleph of Emotions is an experimental art project by Mithru Vigneshwara at LASALLE College of the Arts in Singapore.

“The camera-like interface allows users to point along a particular direction, focus to a place along that direction, and click to view a visualization of emotions in that place. The intention is to explore and find patterns in human emotions with relation to space and time.

The Aleph, according to the author, Jorge Luis Borges, is a point in the Universe where all other points exist. Therefore, anyone looking at the Aleph could see everything in the Universe at once. In this project, I use the Aleph as a metaphor for an archive; Aleph of Emotions refers to an archive of emotions. This archive is produced by data collected from Twitter. Data is collected based on keywords that define certain emotions. The results are finally presented with an interactive object.”

The Hunt for Affect

View from the frog office Amsterdam
View from the frog office Amsterdam

For the past 6 months I have been collaborating with frog, a global design and innovation company in Amsterdam on a design research project. It all culminates in a book (forthcoming), published by the University of Amsterdam Press. Below is the abstract. – Natalie Dixon

Emotions represent some of our most deeply private and personal experiences. Cocooned in an intimate cluster of our personality, life stories and DNA, most times they are completely inscrutable, even to ourselves. Yet, in the minimally chartered tundra of emotion research, explorers hunt for affective charges. Running wild these charges are released into the atmosphere during our everyday tasks and encounters. Do you feel fascination or amusement right now? Did your feeling of warm content rapidly collapse into seething rage this morning when your coffee machine demanded a filter clean before you even blinked hello? Does your mobile phone intimidate you?
The first explorers turned to the expression of emotions in man and animals; later biometric measurements; then a taxonomy of facial expressions; and more recently chartering the Internet, navigating the woven web between people and their online social networks. What makes the hunt so addictive is the holy grail it offers: an understanding of people’s motivation and ultimately behaviour. In the context of design, capturing emotional charge offers the shining promise of design clues, access to a world where emotional responses shape the design agenda of everything we use and own. In a project lasting seven months, spanning Amsterdam and Munich, frog design and embedded researcher Natalie Dixon joined the hunt.

My Knitted Boyfriend

Knitted Boyfriend

I discovered the beautiful work of Noortje De Keijzer recently in Amsterdam. Noortje knitted herself a boyfriend for a masters project at the Design Academy Eindhoven. I thought it was the saddest thing I’d ever seen. But I convinced myself it was about irony, or a clever parody of our desperate and messed up relationships in 2012. But no. Noortje told me she was actually just lonely. She said:

“I felt very lonely at times, and I’m sure everybody feels lonely from time to time. The strange part is that it seems like it’s an emotion nobody really talks about. As if it’s something to be ashamed of, a bad feeling that should always be avoided. By creating Arthur and Steve, I wanted to show the subject in a very light, humorous, positive way. I created this story about a girl so lonely that she decided to just knit a man who could accompany her”.

knitted boyfriend

Apart from the beautiful commentary My Knitted Boyfriend offers on everything synthetic (even relationships) it also made me think of how touch and intimacy have been reinvented in ways we hardly ever reflect on. Haptic technology and gestural interfaces usher in new practices that are remodelling our sensual experiences. And while it might seem easy to snigger at the quirky knitted equivalent of a blow up doll, it’s no sadder than our current digital lives: cradling our beloved iPhone, pawing our iPad surface.

I keep coming back to Next Nature when I think about emotion and technology. Next Nature explores the boundary of where the born and made meet. So maybe it’s our next nature: to manifest our own solutions to loneliness, to knit the blues away. Soon we’ll access the memories (or entire consciousness) of our dream guy or girl.

I continue to be fascinated by the future of intimacy.

– Natalie Dixon

Meet Brad the Toaster

I met Simone Rebaudengo at frog design Munich today. We spoke about social machines and addiction. Specifically we spoke about Brad the toaster, part of a project called Addicted Products that he finished in May in London during some time at Haque Design & Research. Brad wears his emotions on his sleeve. Use him infrequently and he gets upset. Render Brad useless by not making toast and it’s over – he’ll probably send a message to a courier to fetch him. Then you’re on the “black toast list” – which is pretty dire. Brad is not owned, he’s hosted. Brad tweets. If you host Brad you could follow him. – Natalie Dixon

Addicted products: The story of Brad the Toaster from Simone Rebaudengo on Vimeo.


Emoticons have long since been relegated to first-base intimacy. They’re primitive relics of how we express what we can’t say in words. They’re also early avatars or “emblematic figures of contemporary co-presence” according to M.I.T’s Beth Coleman (in her new book, Hello Avatar). But now, Facetime and other video-calling apps are rendering emoticons further into the hinterland of the tech terrain. The dancing ninja, the bear hug, the hair-swipe dude, are all digital collateral-turned-retro. They’re more like ironic digital collateral than representations of emotion.

Skype Emoticons

Which makes Skype’s new marketing campaign curious. Launched a week or two ago, Humoticons is a Facebook app that lets users choose a picture from a limited stash of their Facebook photos, which is converted into an emoticon. Once your emoticon has been created, you choose an existing Skype emoticon (smile, wink, angry) that best matches your expressed emotion. Voila, Humoticon.
Humoticons: upload

The Humoticon campaign doesn’t only say something about improving an apparent communication hamstring (or about reviving emoticons). It shows that Skype is interested in conveying emotion, they think emotion makes us human, that the web could do with being “more human.”

According to their blog: “putting humanity back into how we communicate with others each and every day.”

It also gives emotion researchers fertile ground for investigating users’ expressions of emotion. Browse through the Humoticon gallery and you’ll often find fascinating labels for people’s expression of emotion. Take the following:

Humoticon: not smiling
Humoticon: evil grin (not)
Humoticon: Wondering?
tongue out emoticon
Isn’t there also something to be said about reinventing emoticons? A new visual language is ripe for rising up to represent emotions. Can images make us feel? Or at least close enough…

In the same vein as the blooming flower or raining cloud emoticon, this image is my stab at “gloomy.”

gloomy emoticon

Or the unmistakeable “chirpy”:
chirpy emoticon

Vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame

I’ve watched this countless times and it never gets old. Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. Her TED talk on vulnerability is funny, tender and inspiring.

“Here’s vulnerability, here’s grief, here’s shame, here’s fear, here’s disappointment. I don’t want to feel these. I’m going to have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin.”

Digital Stories

Blog posts, tweets, statuses, pins…are all digital footprints. Often loosely arranged, occasionally they knit together as the new “timelines” of our emotional lives. The stories they tell can be dreamy, cringeworthy or not *exactly* how it happened. Jonathan Harris at TED shows his “photographic heartbeat” project, The Whale Hunt, that poetically blurs the lines between data viz, heart-rates, art, computer science and emotion. He calls it “an experiment in human storytelling”, we call it beautiful.