The Xy:

There is a sentient alien species called the Xy, which primarily relies on its sense of touch, smell, and hearing to make its way around the world.


Due to evolving in dark places, the Xy have no eyes, and thus no senses capable of capturing the visible spectrum. The Xy instead use hearing as their primary senses to spatially navigate, paired with echolocation for spatial awareness and details sensing.

The Xy are bipedal, and possess two limbs with fingers. These fingers have a very sensitive sense of touch, with their fingers being able to detect very fine grooves.

Their sense of smell is average, slightly better than humans.

They are also able to distinguish different materials by their sounds, smells, and touch.


Through these abilities, the Xy were able to develop a technological society similar to our own, although most of their long range sensory capabilities depend upon sensors, echolocation, and sound.

The Xy possess ‘smartphone’ analogs which rely on 3D Shape Displays, more advanced versions of what we have prototyped. They can get a ‘look’ of the screens with echolocation, but mostly use touch.

The Xy have developed microphone and speaker technology, and take 'pictures' by making use of 'echos'.

Social Behaviours

To help clarify some things about the Xy, the Xy find the qualities of the voice to be the most attractive feature in another Xy. They will use singing to court their potential mates, and it is also their main form of entertainment.

Their act of alien kissing is essentially to hold hands, and their phrase for falling in love is 'love at first listen'.

They are capable of recognizing each other through voice, and through echolocation.

The Question:

My question is, given these details, what form of social media would the Xy have developed.


How would they recognize each other in social media (sound, echolocation maps, handshakes maps, etc.).

What form of media would their 'posts' be in? Audio-recordings, or echolocation-pictures mapped onto the screen-pins?

Also, how would they communicate/chat privately in public, assuming they are capable of using echolocation to ‘screen peek’, purposefully or not. They could use sounds to shield the screen, or use touch-only when chatting, but what mechanisms would they employ to do so? Examples include using noise to block off screen-peeping, or the use of special handshakes/touch rituals to communicate.

There would probably also be established social-norms based on their sense of touch and hearing, eg. sensing someone else’s screen is socially impolite, but this may be a completely separate question once the mechanism is first clarified.

  • $\begingroup$ If they use touch for their mobile devices, why would your concern be about sound? It has all the same downfalls and issues as sound in the modern world. Your Aliens have touch based screens. Why can't they send messages using touch? $\endgroup$
    – Shadowzee
    Commented Oct 17, 2019 at 22:35
  • $\begingroup$ The sound would be a way that the public is capable of screen peeking, sometimes not on purpose. Also, just by touch, it’s difficult to take in the whole picture, as they have a limited number of fingers. Private communications could be hard if they are sent by touch, but are still capable of being listened in on due to echolocation. Perhaps there would have to be some sort of privacy screen to block off sound waves? $\endgroup$
    – Enthu5ed
    Commented Oct 17, 2019 at 22:38
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You could have a white or brown noise generator nearby. Thats how people disguise sound now-a-days. If your close, you hear it fine, but people far away or recording won't be able to make it out. I still don't understand how touch wouldn't work... Its not like reading braille would require 5 fingers and an alien society would have an established writing method suited to just touch if they evolved while being blind. $\endgroup$
    – Shadowzee
    Commented Oct 17, 2019 at 22:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Shadowzee Hm, that's true, but the chatting mechanism is only one part of the question. It's fine to specify that they would communicate through touch, but it's always good to have elaborations on that method. Eg, should they be using letters/braille, will they have developed elaborate handshake touches to use through the screen, etc. $\endgroup$
    – Enthu5ed
    Commented Oct 17, 2019 at 22:48
  • $\begingroup$ I will update the question to be more specific. $\endgroup$
    – Enthu5ed
    Commented Oct 17, 2019 at 22:48

1 Answer 1


There aren't really any RL examples of entirely-bottom-up for-the-blind social media tech, however there are examples of attempts at creating platforms analogous to mainstream ones specifically for blind users. They tend to get outcompeted heavily by mainstream options, and are mostly similar in style with a preference for plaintext and light-weight, keyboard-driven interfaces. The Odd dating site or singles section will support audio profiles, but there seems to otherwise be a bizarre lack of interest in doing anything to to take further advantage of audio as a medium.

One thing that just outright has never translated well is the concept of avatars. For all intents and purposes, IRL, blind people interact with the internet via plain text with words like "link" and "graphic" and "heading level 3" to provide further information about page elements. So if there is a username, an avatar is pointless and redundant. It literally sounds like "Bob. Graphic: Bob's avatar." I have never come across anyone contemplating ways to add the functionality of avatars to a platform for blind users. This is something I imagine would be very different in the civilization you're asking about, and the difficulty in speculating about how it would go depends on things like the level of text-to-speech they have (is it realistic enough that they have to worry about deepfakes? Can they get a semi-realistic immitation of arbitrary voices? If none of the above, I could see people using voice profiles to associate text with the author, or similar.).

Typing as we know it with just two fingers would be strenuous. I expect they'd aim for something more gesture-oriented. Imagine a touchscreen game based on quickly drawing specific shapes (there is a Windows audio game based on this concept, see Daytona and the Book of Gold from here if you're up for getting VB6 to work in the 2010s). You've already specified the 3d screen tech is there, so that helps make it much more user-friendly. I'd expect a writing system that makes heavy use of single-character words, due to the limited bandwidth.

I imagine they would use both audio and tactile recordings, in the way that sighted people IRL use video and audio. In this case, I expect audio would dominate for bandwidth reasons. Tactile recordings are in principal possible—if I'm being pedantic, I'd argue that touchscreens are super low-resolution tactile recorders... palpagraphs?—and there are wide varieties of methods for outputing different types of tactile information, being held back primarily due to lack of market interest (Senseg, Redux St, Tanvas, Tesla Touch, Aereal3d, and those are just the proof-of-concept never-made-it-to-market devices. Virtual Reality setups have I don't even know what, these days. Last decade, it was things like the Novint Falcon for 3d, and the Logitech Wingman Force Feedback mouse for 2d.). Notice that these have been around for decades, at this point, and in a world where they took priority instead of being novelties, I expect we'd actually see them advance and compete and determine which was actually best for which applications. Pins can work for reading and drawings where low resolution is acceptable (math homework, Super Mario Bros), but there's going to be something else as soon as someone finds a better way to convey the feel of someone else's hand. If they have social media, I would be surprised if they did not have that.

The thing about screens and privacy is that the peeper needs line-of-sound to the screen. Since sound can bend around or through things, this isn't necessarily as clear-cut as blocking line-of-sight, but a simple hold-it-below-and-toward-you combined with a sound-dampening case seems like it would be sufficient, unless I'm misunderstanding the situation entirely.

One last thing to think about: they have communications technology prior to social media, don't they? To know exactly what form their social media would take, it is helpful to know what their classical media takes. Combine cave-paintings and writing, and you have images with captions, and that's 99% of social media graffitied onto the walls of Pompey. How much of their pre-electronic indirect communication was engraved? Embossed? Windchimes? Music boxes? I've lately liked the idea of chimes that double as tactile messages: you hear the chime at a distance, and when closer, can investigate exactly what beeds, knots, etc are strung together to get the full details. Electronic strings-of-beeds seems a different technical challenge, but the general concept translates fine (mouseover to get a tooltip, or whathaveyou).

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Quite a complete answer. The extreme sensitivity in the fingers developed by the Xy over time (for use in identifying objects and materials) should allow better resolution for their screens, since the pins can be made smaller. And You are correct in that we can also assume that their smart phone tech for tactile senses is way ahead of ours, due to them focusing their efforts in that area. $\endgroup$
    – Enthu5ed
    Commented Oct 18, 2019 at 3:43

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