“For example, when you heard your dad had a seizure, you drove, what, a hundred miles or so, and never once during that drive did you try to glean any information from the InnerCirclers, or from the larger OuterCircle. Do you see that as an opportunity wasted?”
“Now I do, absolutely. I was just upset, and worried, and I was driving like a maniac. I wasn’t very present.”
Denise raised a finger. “Ah, present. That is a wonderful word.
I’m glad you used it. Do you consider yourself usually present?”
“I try to be.”
Josiah smiled and tapped a flurry into his tablet.
“But the opposite of present would be what?” Denise asked.
“Yes. Absent. Let’s put a pin in that thought, too. Let’s go back to your dad, and this weekend. Did he recover okay?”
“He did. It was a false alarm, really.”
“Good. I’m so glad to hear about that. But it’s curious that you didn’t share this with anyone else. Did you post anything anywhere about this episode? A zing, a comment anywhere?”
“No, I didn’t,” Mae said.
“Hm. Okay,” Denise said, taking a breath. “Do you think someone else might have benefited from your experience? That is, maybe the next person who might drive two or three hours home might benefit from knowing what you found out about the episode, that it was just a minor pseudo-seizure?”
“Absolutely. I could see that being helpful.”
“Good. So what do you think the action plan should be?”
“I think I’ll join the MS club,” Mae said, “and I should post something about what happened. I know it’ll be beneficial.”
Denise smiled. “Fantastic. Now let’s talk about the rest of theweekend. On Friday, you find out that your dad’s okay. But the rest of the weekend, you basically go blank. It’s like you disappeared!” Her eyes grew wide. “This is when someone like you, with a low Participation Rank, might be able to improve that, if she wanted to. But yours actually dropped—two thousand points. Not to get all number-geeky, but you were on 8,625 on Friday and by late Sunday you were at 10,288.”
“I didn’t know it was that bad,” Mae said, hating herself, this self who couldn’t seem to get out of her own way. “I guess I was just recovering from the stress of my dad’s episode.”
“Can you talk about what you did on Saturday?”
“It’s embarrassing,” Mae said. “Nothing.”
“Nothing meaning what?”
“Well, most of the day I stayed at my parents’ house and just watched TV.”
Josiah brightened. “Anything good?”
“Just some women’s basketball.”
“There’s nothing wrong with women’s basketball!” Josiah gushed. “I love women’s basketball. Have you followed my WNBA zings?”
“No, do you have a Zing feed about the WNBA?”
Josiah nodded, looking hurt, even bewildered. Denise stepped in. “Again, it’s just curious that you didn’t choose to share it with anyone. Did you join any of the discussions about the sport? Josiah, how many participants are there in our global WNBA discussion group?”
Josiah, still visibly shaken knowing that Mae hadn’t been reading his WNBA feed, managed to find the number on his tablet and muttered, “143,891.”
“And how many zingers out there focus on the WNBA?”
Josiah quickly found the number. “12,992.”
“And you’re not part of either, Mae. Why do you think that is?”
“I guess I just didn’t think my interest in the WNBA rose to the level where it warranted joining a discussion group, or, you know, following anything. I’m not that passionate about it.”
Denise squinted at Mae. “That’s an interesting choice of words: Passion. You’ve heard of PPT? Passion, Participation and Transparency?”
Mae had seen the letters PPT around campus and had not, until that moment, connected the letters to these three words. She felt like a fool.
Denise put her palms on the desk, as if she might get up. “Mae, you know this is a technology company, correct?”
“Of course.”
“And that we consider ourselves on the forefront of social media.”
“Yes.”“And you know the term Transparency, correct?”
“I do. Absolutely.”
Josiah looked at Denise, hoping to calm her. She put her hands in her lap. Josiah took over. He smiled and swiped his tablet, turning a new page.
“Okay. Let’s go to Sunday. Tell us about Sunday.”
“I just drove back.”
“That’s it?”
“I kayaked?”
Josiah and Denise registered dual looks of surprise.
“You kayaked?” Josiah said. “Where?”
“Just in the bay.”
“With who?”
“No one. Just alone.”
Denise and Josiah looked hurt.
“I kayak,” Josiah said, and then typed something in his tablet, pressing very hard.
“How often do you kayak?” Denise asked Mae.
“Maybe once every few weeks?”
Josiah was looking intently at his tablet. “Mae, I’m looking at your profile, I’m finding nothing about you and kayaking. No smiles, no ratings, no posts, nothing. And now you’re telling me you kayak once every few weeks?
“Well, maybe it’s less than that?”
Mae laughed, but Denise and Josiah did not. Josiah continued to stare at his screen, while Denise’s eyes probed into Mae.
“When you go kayaking, what do you see?”
“I don’t know. All kinds of things.”
“Sea lions?
“Waterbirds? Pelicans?”
Denise tapped at her tablet. “Okay, I’m doing a search now of your name for visual documentation of any of these trips you’ve taken. I’m not finding anything.”
“Oh, I’ve never brought a camera.”
“But how do you identify all these birds?”
“I have this little guide. It’s just a thing my ex-boyfriend gave me. It’s a little foldable guide to local wildlife.”
“So it’s just a pamphlet or something?”
“Yeah, I mean, it’s waterproof and—”
Josiah exhaled loudly.
“I’m sorry,” Mae said.
Josiah rolled his eyes. “No, I mean, this is a tangent, but my problem with paper is that all communication dies with it. It holds no possibility of continuity. You look at your paper brochure, and that’s where it ends. It ends with you. Like you’re the only one who matters. But think if you’d been documenting. If you’d been using a tool that would help confirm the identity of whatever birds you saw, then anyone can benefit — naturalists, students, historians, the Coast Guard. Everyone can know, then, what birds were on the bay on that day. It’s just maddening, thinking of how much knowledge is lost every day through this kind of shortsightedness. And I don’t want to call it selfish but—”
“No. It was. I know it was,” Mae said.
Josiah softened. “But documentation aside, I’m just fascinated why you wouldn’t mention anything about kayaking anywhere. I mean, it’s a part of you. An integral part.”
Mae let out an involuntary scoff. “I don’t think it’s all that integral. Or interesting, really.”
Josiah looked up, his eyes fiery. “But it is!”
“Lots of people kayak,” Mae said.
“That’s exactly it!” Josiah said, quickly turning red. “Wouldn’t you like to meet other people who kayak?” Josiah tapped at his screen. “There are 2,331 people near you who also like to kayak. Including me.”
Mae smiled. “That’s a lot.”
“More or less than you expected?” Denise asked.
“More, I guess,” Mae said.
Josiah and Denise smiled.
“So should we sign you up to hear more about the people near you who like to kayak? There are so many tool…” Josiah seemed to be opening a page where he could sign her up.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Mae said.
Their faces plummeted.
Josiah seemed angry again. “Why not? Do you think yourpassions are unimportant?”
“That’s not quite it. I just …”
Josiah leaned forward. “How do you think other Circlers feel, knowing that you’re so close to them physically, that you’re ostensibly part of a community here, but you don’t want them to know your hobbies and interests. How do you think they feel?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think they’d feel anything.”
“But they do!” Josiah said. “The point is that you’re not engaged with the people around you!”
“It’s just kayaking!” Mae said, laughing again, trying to bring the discussion back to a place of levity.
Josiah was at work on his tablet. “Just kayaking? Do you realize that kayaking is a three-billion-dollar industry? And you say it’s ‘just kayaking’! Mae, don’t you see that it’s all connected? You
play your part. You have to part-icipate.”
Denise was looking at Mae intensely. “Mae, I have to ask a delicate question.”
“Okay,” Mae said.
“Do you think … Well, do you think this might be an issue of self-esteem?”
“Excuse me?”
“Are you reluctant to express yourself because you fear your opinions aren’t valid?”
Mae had never thought about it quite this way, but it made a certain sense. Was she too shy about expressing herself? “I don’t know, actually,” she said.
Denise narrowed her eyes. “Mae, I’m no psychologist, but if I were, I might have a question about your sense of self-worth. We’ve studied some models for this kind of behavior. Not to say this kind of attitude is antisocial, but it’s certainly sub-social, and certainly far from transparent. And we see that this behavior sometimes stems from a low sense of self-worth—a point of view that says, ‘Oh, what I have to say isn’t so important.’ Do you feel that describes your point of view?”
Mae was too off-balance to see herself clearly. “Maybe,” she said, buying time, knowing she shouldn’t be too pliant. “But sometimes I’m sure that what I say is important. And when I have something significant to add, I definitely feel empowered to do it.”
“But notice you said ‘sometimes I’m sure,’ ” Josiah said, wagging a finger. “The ‘sometimes’ is interesting to me. Or concerning, I should say. Because I think you’re not finding that ‘sometime’ frequently enough.” He sat back, as if resting after the hard work of solving her was complete.
“Mae,” Denise said, “we’d love if you could participate in a special program. Does that sound appealing?”
Mae knew nothing about it, but knew, because she was in trouble, and had already consumed so much of their time, she should say yes, so she smiled and said, “Absolutely.”
“Good. As soon as we can, we’ll hook you up. You’ll meet Pete Ramirez, and he’ll explain it. I think it might make you feel sure not just sometimes, but always. Does that sound better?”