Nick Cave is showing us a new, gentler way to use the internet

Nick Cave performs

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Something curious is happening on the world wide web. Intimacy. And not of the more sordid kind with which you might commonly associate it.

In September the Australian songwriter Nick Cave told email subscribers of his plan to communicate outside “some of the more conventional ways of getting information across”. It followed the “Conversations with Nick Cave” events this year in the US and Ireland where, inspired by his 2017 world tour with the Bad Seeds, he explored a more direct relationship with his audience by just talking with them. The success of those gatherings has led to 10 more dates in Australia and New Zealand next year. Cave wanted to deepen further this engagement and so invited “questions or comments, observations or inspirations” from fans and he’d answer in a series of mail drops titled The Red Hand Files.

“You can ask me anything,” he told readers. “Like the Conversations with events there will be no moderator. This will be between you and me. Let’s see what happens.”

The Selfie That Dares to Go There

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The V-selfie, though very much here, is perhaps less insistent. Shared on dating apps or in texts, it has been sent to create longing and a sense of intimacy: a missive of lust and promise to lovers, or would-be lovers, who are separated.

The New Intimacy Economy

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Lately Facebook is getting a little too intimate with me. “Good morning, Leigh,” it coos. “Thanks for being here. We hope you enjoy Facebook today.” Then, like a slice of dystopian cafeteria lunch, it serves one of its abysmal “memories” into my feed, some forgotten years-old share, and when I tell it I don’t want to see that, Facebook scrapes apologetically: “We know we don’t always get it right.”

Pretending at closeness is really the only way forward for anyone who wants to make money on the internet. As such, watch as organizations pretend, with increasing intensity, that they are individuals. Start counting how many times platforms, services and websites entreat you in human voices, with awkward humor, for money. Watch as the things we expect to be invisible, utilitarian, start oozing emojis and winky-smileys. Even Silicon Valley, global epicenter of whitewashed empathy voids and 1-percenter sci-fi wank fantasies, is going to pretend it cares about you. Especially Silicon Valley. Ugh.

Your inbox is going to fill up with requests for professional favors from strangers who tell you they love you. They are not remotely your peers, but they’ll expect you to work for them anyway for exposure, for credit, for kudos, for ‘the community’. They add emojis for effect, too. Your feelings are now professional currency. Everyone who makes anything digital is monitoring the exchange rate to survive. Every content creator is now a community manager.

You live in a network of friends, likes, favorites, hearts and stars. The future is not a prison of robot overlords, but a Lucky Charms hell world stuffed with ‘plushies’ you backed on Kickstarter. Tell Your Story, Medium begs me in the field where I post this article. Please like and share this article. Please Tweet at me to tell me I kick ass.