2016 minus 42: breach of promise and loss of signal 

Posted: 20 November 2015 in 2016minus, internet, life, don't talk to me about life, social media
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Up until the early 20th Century, you could actually sue someone for breach of promise, which was a common law tort. Now to be fair, it was pretty much limited to the breaking of an engagement by a man, an engagement and promise to marry then being a legally binding and enforceable, though in practice rarely actually enforced, contract. (In Jewish Law, the marriage still is a contract, by the way…)

I think they should bring back “breach of promise” as a legally enforceable concept; not in respect of promises to marry, and not for everything, but for one specific thing: any recommendation online or by email, or any plea by those methods, that has anything like:

“watch this show/play this clip… you’ll love it, I promise!”

I wouldn’t like to think how many times I’ve read such an exhortation and guarantee, and you know what? I don’t love it most of the time. Sometimes I smile, sometimes I groan, but most often, my reaction is “well, that’s two/five/ten minutes of my life that I’ll never get back.”

So, a new proposal, I think anyone who recommends something with that level of certitude ought to set aside a small sum, say a couple of hundred punds (or equivalent in local currency) that those who rely upon such a promise may claim against if indeed they don’t “love it”.

As a side effect, I suspect that it would rather speedily reduce such recommendations to things that are genuinely good, rather than 95% of the things I currently get recommended which I don’t find funny, or even amusing.

(Of course, one problem with the above is that to sue, you have to prove financial loss. How to prove that, or even measure it. I suppose you could use your salary as a guide, but then – if you’ve done it during the working day, your employers would want the cash… hmm, in the words of Fagin via Lionel Bart, “I think I’d better think it out again…”)

We could then go further; “10 things you didn’t know about [insert subject matter]!” Well, what if I do know some, indeed, most of the items in that list? “You’ll be surprised about…[insert subject matter]!” Well, what if I’m not only unsurprised (look up the definition of surprise, folks) but entirely unastonished?

Clickbait is an abuse of the entirely natural human phenomenon called curiosity and the entirely modern phenomenon of “what am I missing? What does everyone else know that I don’t?”

Modern etiquette has evolved right along the ubiquity of online life, and has only accelerated with the growth of social media.  I should be able to claim. I’d phone to complain but then what happens if I lose the signal?

Which leads me onto a second complaint about modern etiquette which perplexes me. Whose responsibility is it to call back when a phone conversation is interrupted by a lost signal? 

For once, the other day, I was using my mobile phone as a phone (it’s notable that I rarely do this; it’s far more often used as a mobile computer or camera than a telephone). I was chatting away when the signal was lost. Don’t know if it was ‘my’ signal or theirs that was lost; it doesn’t really matter, and unless it was due to one of us going into a tunnel or a lift, unlikely that we’d ever know. But anyway, I called her back and got her voicemail. And it occurred to me, as it usually does in such circumstances: what if it’s going to voicemail because she’s calling me back?

So, I think there should be a new rule: if you lose the signal while talking to someon, the person who originally made the call… calls again. Simple solution. Also takes account of what happens when you call someone who’s got not credit left on their phone – if you lose the signal, you know that you’ve got to call them again, and if they’ve got no credit, then they know you’ll be calling them back.

Done.

Next problem?

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