Coronavirus: Making us love Facebook and Google all over again

As we're stuck indoors, tech companies are suddenly our sword and our shield. But should we suddenly trust them again?
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

Lovable after all?

Once, we were stupidly in love.

Our lives had changed in a beautiful, limitless kind of way.

Our new lover, the tech company, promised a better, richer, more fulfilling world. Our lover told us that, finally, the world would see us for who we really were -- wonderful, fascinating, and, most of all, so lovable.

Or, even better, we could now make up who we really were and technology would make sure people believed it.

Tech companies became the sexiest organizations in the world. Everyone wanted to work in one, and perhaps even own one. The sexual cachet and free lunches made tech companies the ultimate partner.

But then we heard rumors. Tech companies like Google and Facebook were playing around behind our backs. The commitment they'd shown to make us so happy -- and make the world such an idyllic place -- was so much twisted twaddle.

Our lovers were just in it for the ego trip and the money. They'd sell their souls -- and especially ours -- for grimy lucre. We'd fallen in love with advertising companies. What could be more naive than that?

Of course, Google and Facebook weren't alone. Their tactics were, however, the ones so many other companies followed.

Now the trust had gone and we were angry. Someone had to find a phrase for it: The techlash.

We couldn't, however, get out of the relationship. We were married now to these faithless fops and robbers.

We spent our days a little more wary. We began to think about our personal security and privacy. We wanted to sleep in separate rooms, but there seemed only one big, open-plan nightmare. We were webbed in.

Then along came the coronavirus COVID-19. We were scared. Really, really scared.

The tech companies, though, went truly woke. Or, rather, they woke up to a considerable opportunity. If they behaved with something approaching decency, they might regain the precious trust they need from us, in order to make us happy being duped in ever more insidious ways.

So Google stepped up and created a site to help find coronavirus testing centers. Facebook actually began weeding out posted coronavirus utterances that were utter lies -- although it had a little trouble identifying them.

Still, this was progress. After all, the young Palpatine on Facebook's throne believed it wasn't worth weeding out political untruths at all. He was for what he mistakenly identified as free speech. Paid free speech, that is.

Of course, you'll tell me that Google and Facebook are now just being fine corporate citizens. And I'll sniff that this suddenly sensitive public-spiritedness has some very large potential benefits for the tech behemoths.

It doesn't just help their image -- though what perfect timing for it to receive robust Botoxing. It also makes them more hopeful of attracting fine new employees.

Where once, you see, these enormous Silicon Valley companies were the ones to work for, they rather queered their pitch as the truth about them emerged.

To the young and the idealistic, they became edifices of creepy corporatism, just a heap of Exxon-chromosomes.

To the more experienced with options -- in the career sense -- they were nasty political places with the principles of a rabid rodent.

We're now down to the one existential question of our times: how long will it last?

Will Facebook, Google, and other tech companies suddenly deserve a little mature love? Will we be bathed in such gratitude that they're being so helpful? Will we be ever-admiring of the fact that Amazon can still bring us essentials like lettuce and treadmills?

Or, once the virus has passed, will we do everything we can to release the bonds of technology and go for a really, really long walk in the countryside?

Second time around rarely works in love, does it?

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