The Black Cat and the Facebook Event Formula

My band (that I play drums in) played at the Black Cat this past Saturday.  It was pretty cool.  It’s always a little unreal being the guest of a well-run and high-profile venue — whether as a theatre artist or a musician.  I wonder if it ever ceases to be unreal, if one is lucky enough to continue being a guest of such venues for a long enough time.  Is that feeling a sign of naiveté and inexperience, or a sign of wonder?  Ask a celebrity, I guess.

Anyways — although this was the classiest venue we’ve played to date, I was unable to get any of my friends to come out to it.  Someone I met this past week came out to it, and my father and a friend of the family did, but none of my established (Facebook) friends made it.

I’m in no way upset at anyone — this isn’t a complainy post.  NO COMPLAINY POSTS HERE.  It just makes me think about the way event invitations and decisions work in the Facebook Age.  The whole concept of going to events that your friends are a part of or are organizing has been commoditized.  I’m sure at one point waaay back in Ancient History like 1992 or something it was all very simple and natural, figuring out what to do with your time.  Someone would invite you to a party or a concert, and you’d be like “Yeah that sounds cool” or “Nah, I think I’m busy that night.”  But it’s so totally a Thing nowadays, a Thing people have to Manage.

Cellphone Driving

Yo we got so much to Manage with a capital M these days we can’t even Manage it

But we all make a calculation, don’t we?  There’s a formula we use, even if we don’t think about it really.  In our head, when we get one of the dozens upon dozens of invites we get each week, we just think “ehh should I?  Do I want to?  Do I have to?”  (That or we just click “Maybe” and forget about it.)  But in reality what’s going on is a kind of formula.  Like math!  Except it determines whether we have friends or not.  So not like math at all.

But it goes like this, the formula, dubbed the AIRGATE formula.  That’s AIRGATE, meaning Am I Really Gonna Attend This Event?  Like, really?  Not just “I’ll click ‘Yes'” to make it go away really, but “Now whenever I think about that Saturday I’m thinking Oh Right I was going to do that thing on Saturday” really.  (“AIRGATE” sounds better if you say it like you would say “really?  seriously?”)

The AIRGATE formula goes like this:

How much I care about this person
plus
How much I owe this person
multiplied by
How important this event is to that person
equals
The Am I Really Gonna Attend This Event score

or

C + O x iT = A

C and O have no upper bound.  Your best friend might get a C for Caring score of 100, or one billion if you’re super cuddly.

Your O for Owing score (also known as the “how much they will NEVER FORGIVE ME and say “I HATE YOU I THOUGHT YOU WERE MY FRIEND!!!’ if I skip this” score) might be 1000 if they saved your life, or it might only be an extra 2 points if it’s just been a week since you’ve seen them.

iT for Importance (to Them) is a number between 0 and 1, with 1 the most important.  So, say, a friend getting married is a 1, because it’s Super Important to them.  Multiplying by 1 doesn’t change the number, of course, so the likelihood you attend a Super Important To Them event is equal to how much you care about them and how much you owe them.  An event that is anything less than Super Important To Them decreases the overall score.  (MATH!)

Royal Wedding

Super Important to them.  Don’t care at all.  Owe them nothing.  0 + 0 x 1 = 0.  So I didn’t attend.  Also, I wasn’t invited.

Now here’s the tricky part.  You ready?  Whether you attend the event isn’t determined by how big the number is.  When you do this formula subconsciously in your head, what determines whether or not you attend is what has the biggest number at that time.

If your best friend is having a graduation party on Friday you might mentally come up with something like 100 + 25 x.6 = 75.  Another friend of yours, who you’re not as close with, is in a band and playing a show that’s pretty cool for them, although you see invites for their band pretty often, so it doesn’t seem like a Really Big Deal.  Maybe a Big Deal, but not a Hugemongous Deal.  So, 50 + 10 x.5 = 30.

You have a choice between 75 or 30.  You’re going with 30.

Unless, of course, you’ve got another event that scores higher.  Like maybe watching an entire season of Downton Abbey that you downloaded acquired legally.  You are at least a 100 to yourself, and you haven’t relaxed all week so you owe yourself 10, and you’re so totally behind on whether Lady Mary and Matthew have gotten patched things up or not so it’s really important that you catch up before someone gives you a spoiler, so that’s a .8, and 100 + 10 x .8 means you end up with 88.  So you stay in and watch TV instead of anything else.

Well no one said you were fair.  It’s your life after all.

And that’s that.  Of course, this is an oversimplification, because lots of other factors (like the How Cool Does This Thing Look and the Did I Eat Too Much Chili Last Night And Feel Like A Fat Pig Who Doesn’t Want To Leave The House Today factor) are not considered, but this is basically what we go through when encountering an event.  Don’t deny it.  I mean, yes, okay, deny it, because you don’t sit there with a calculator figuring out your events.  But your brain is really fast and powerful, and it does this math automatically at a glance.  So, yeah, don’t deny it.  I do it too.

Unless you’re one of those who people skip over this entire process and ignore their event invitations or just automatically click Maybe.  You know who you are.  Maybe you assume that the Important Ones will pop up in your feed enough that you’ll totally notice or you assume that you’ll get a text or something if it’s really important.  I don’t blame you.  It’s a fair and rational defense mechanism against drowning in a sea of dates.

Sea of DatesDates.  Like the fruit.  Those are dates like the fruit.  It’s a sea of dates.

There’s more I could go into about how this affects the Event Creator and how they should try to increase their scores to get people to come or something, but copypasting that visual pun took it out of me too much.  So thank you, all eleven of you, for tuning it to today’s edition of Applying Unnecessary Formulas To Define How You Live Your Life.  Especially because it was probably not the post you thought it was based on the title.  But you read it anyways, because you applied the What Will I Read On The Internet Formula…

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One comment

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