Social Stigmata

Rob stepped from the bathroom still drying himself.

“Daddy, you’re dripping onto the carpet.”

He pulled the towel away from his face and looked at his daughter. She was stood in the doorway to the master bedroom, her hands placed firmly on her hips, her expression imitating the one her mother used.

“Hey, pumpkin.” Rob managed to smile even as he dropped the wet towel on the floor and struggled into his clothes.

“Mommy’s not going to be happy,” his daughter continued.

Rob, his back to her as he pulled on a t-shirt, glanced over his shoulder. “I know, but this is a special circumstance, because your dad has an interview for a new job and doesn’t want to be late.”

Sassy’s brow creased as she thought. “What’s the new job?”

“It’s doing the same thing as before, but for a different company.” Rob put a hand on his daughter’s shoulder and moved her to one side as he left the room. “I’ll tell you about it later, when you get back from school.”

There was no time to answer more questions. He ran down the stairs two at a time, almost losing his footing as he rushed.

“Jan,” he called as he passed the kitchen, “Sassy’s upstairs in our room. I can’t deal with her out right now.”

The response from his wife was cut off has he closed the door to his den. He picked up a tablet lying on the table in the middle of the room and sat down on the sofa with a heavy sigh. A projection appeared on the opposite wall, filling the space with Denware’s web site. Rob glanced at the time and let the rest of the air out of his lungs; he was ten minutes early. There had been no need to worry.

“Welcome to Denware, Mr Kingston.” The voice that greeted Rob was female, neutral and obviously designed to appeal to a wide demographic. “We are happy that you could join us today to undertake an interview for the position of Regional Senior Sales Executive. This is the first stage of the process and during the next hour you will be asked to complete our standard assessments and give us additional information that will allow us to ensure you are suitable to work for Denware.”

Rob could already feel his attention wandering. He was an old hand at interviews. If he got this job it would be his forth consecutive promotion in five years. Delware were another company on the ladder of success. He did not care about the company promotion that was being played for him. He had no interest in how quickly they had grown, how many accounts they had, or the fact that they were the largest agricultural equipment seller in the south west. He knew this was a competitive market, he knew Denware were performing well and he knew he could walk any sales interview.

After two videos backed by upbeat music the voice returned. “We hope that this brief tour around our ever expanding company has given you some insight into the supportive but goal driven environment you could be working in. We will now ask you to complete a series of questions designed to assess your underlying skill sets.”

It would be psychometric testing. Dark aged stuff that should have been consigned to the trash along with all the gas-guzzling cars. Companies still liked them though, and sometimes those who did not know their stuff got caught out. Rob knew he was not one of those people.

“Please answer the following questions as truthfully as possible.” The woman told him.

He answered the questions fast enough to make it appear he was being instinctive, but each response was well chosen; exactly the replies Denware would be looking. He would be a perfect fit for the position.

Before the last question had appeared Rob was already wondering what they would get him doing next. More than one company had increased the pressure to see how he handled stress. He had heard of interviews where an AI started asking questions only to reveal it was a human all along. It threw some people, Rob knew he would have no problems with such tricks.

“The last part of this interview is designed to assess your social and networking skills.”

A simulated reality was his best guess.

“Please enter your details and authorise Denware to access your Facebook account.”

The screen that appeared on his tablet was as alien to him as a roll of bank notes. Rob knew he had a Facebook account. He had signed up ten years ago along with everyone at college, but in the last few years he had barely been near the site. It sent him emails; he filtered them into an inbox folder he never looked at.

Rob began to wonder why the company wanted to see his empty Facebook profile. The prompt vanished as he entered his details and he was left staring at a web page he had not been near for years. In the centre was a stream of pictures and updates. He knew the people. Some were friends he still spoke to, others were ex-colleagues or high school buddies.

The Denware we site popped up once more and the female voice spoke.

“Thank you for your time, Mr Kingston. Your initial assessment has been processed. At this stage we do not think you are right for Denware, but should another position arise we would be happy to accept your application.

“We would like to wish you every success in your future career.”

The company web site closed and Rob was left staring at his old Facebook page. As his brain struggled to understand what had happened, his eyes alighted on the conversations his friends were having. Fourteen of his fifty three friends had were online.


21 October 2011
A study has been released suggesting a link between the number of Facebook friends a person has and their ability to socialise face-to-face.

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