Monday, May 12, 2014

Encounters with strangers and eating lunch

Little things in life are important. That statement shouldn't need an explanation, but I'll provide one anyway: 

There's this amazing deli I visit near my office around once a week. Seriously, the chicken salad sandwiches are incredible - not too wet, not too chunky, just light, zesty and sweet. I should know because I get the chicken sandwiches every week, whether I order them or not.

Over the couple of years I've visited this deli, I've ordered the same meal enough times that it has become my usual. So now, when the owners see me in line, they just make it for me and it is ready by the time I hit the counter. And, it absolutely doesn't matter to me if I wanted to order something different: The chicken salad is so amazing, I will accept it every time. On the whole, it is unbelievably great service. And a little thing, like a great lunch, can turn my whole day around.

Getting a great meal is where the relationship with this deli ends. I am fairly certain that they are not Googling me in their spare time.

But there is at least one restaurant that is researching its guests online before they arrive, and you can read about it here. The restaurant uses its guests' social media profiles to find out as much information about them as possible to take service one step further. Instead of, "Hi, my name is Lauren and I'll be taking care of you this evening; would you like to hear the specials?" you get "Hi, my name is Lauren and I also went to the same college that you did; did you happen to have Dr. Loftus, too?" 

For me, this is taking the little things in life a little to far: To be greeted with a "Happy Birthday" by my coworkers is lovely and sweet; to hear total strangers greet me that way would freak me out.

I find, however, that my privacy boundaries are becoming more relaxed with near strangers. There are people who work tangentially on projects with me at work who show up in my "See who's looking at your profile on LinkedIn" messages. (And sometimes I even see profiles from readers of my blogs.)

So, I wonder what my son's boundaries will be like as he gets older. Since he is little, we distinguish between the differences of privacy and sharing, of talking to strangers but not leaving with them. But before I know it, he will eventually be old enough to have his own social media accounts. What lessons can I teach him now to make sure he maintains a balance between openness and privacy that is comfortable for him?

It's all a series of questions in an ongoing conversation. For now, I should focus on the little things in life. Like an amazing lunch.

What little joy in life are you celebrating today?

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