Improving Your Social Life One Gadget at a Time

The risk of seeming uncool is shamefully important to many of
us. We worry about being popular, fitting in, staying current on
the latest fads — anxieties that stretch back to elementary school
and only begin to ease once we’re too old to care. With the
prevalence of text messages, social networking websites, iPods,
BlackBerries, digital cameras, and blogs, it’s getting harder to
keep up in today’s techno-trendy world. But just as technology can
complicate your self-image, it can also help you fake your way to
coolness.

Social networking sites continue to reign as the most popular
measures of popularity around. But for some people, it’s not enough
to have a handful of real-life friends and some favorite local
bands filling out their friends lists. That’s where
FakeYourSpace.com comes in handy. Starting
March 1, users of MySpace, Facebook, and
Friendster
can pay $0.99/month for friend requests and comments from
muscle-bound men and bikini-clad women. The profiles are fake, but
the comments are real — written by the subscribers themselves.

If the internet isn’t handy for a quick ego boost, you can
always use your cell phone. PopularityDialer.com offers a free service that
sends you up to five prearranged phone calls from a phony man,
woman, cousin, or boss. The recordings ask generic questions and
make friendly chit chat, an interruption that makes you look
important — or gives you an exit strategy — at just the right
time.

We-Make-Money-Not-Art.com reports that
Alice Wang,
a student of Design Interactions at the Royal College of Art in
London, has crafted a similar fake dialer: the ‘popular mobile.’
It’s set to beep every so often, to make those around you think
you’ve just gotten a new text message. Other creations of her
interactive art project, dubbed Peer Pressure, include a printer
that weeds through your emails and prints out party invitations and
complimentary letters meant to generate positive rumors about you
throughout the office; dual-sided headphones that project hip music
outward, while playing what you actually like inward; and the ‘fast
typing keyboard,’ designed with extra clacking noises for those who
are embarrassed about their slow typing.

For those who aren’t vain, but just plain lonely, a prototype of
a new video technology from Accenture pairs up dinner companions.
Users — whom the company expects to be mostly the elderly and
their friends and family — communicate through a large,
interactive screen that’s hooked up to a broadband internet
connection and placed in their dining room. Then,
as Roger Highfield of Britain’s Telegraph.co.uk
explains
, ‘a computer program runs through a directory of
pre-registered family members and friends to find someone who is
‘available for dinner’ — or, at least, a conversation.’ That
makes one social technology out there that’s using real human
beings.

Go there >>
Fake Your
Space

Go there, too >>
Popularity
Dialer

And there >>
Peer Pressure

And there >>
Dining Alone? Call Up a Guest On Screen

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