Thursday, April 8, 2010

Social media detox, social media suicide, and general unplugging

Very interesting article (seen via the Huffington Post) about signing off Facebook and Twitter for 4 months. Edan says he felt "equal parts annoyed, superior and wistful.And also relieved," to be an outsider to the "Did you see what so-and-so posted?" world.

He also quotes from Jaron Lanier's book, You Are Not A Gadget, in which Lanier writes about personal reductivism in the 2.0 world. He points out that "personal reductivism has always been present in information systems. You have to declare your status in reductive ways when you file a tax return. Your real life is represented by a silly, phony set of database entries in order for you to make use of a service in an appropriate way. Most people are aware of the difference between reality and database entries when they file taxes. But the order is reversed when you perform the same kind of self-reduction in order to create a profile on a social networking site. You fill in the data: profession, marital status, and residence. But in this case digital reduction becomes a causal element, mediating contact between new friends."

An interesting point. It reminds me of how someone was saying to me recently how the Plateau neighbourhood of Montreal is over-hyped: residents feel as though they are describing themselves by saying they live there, when all they really do is go home and eat take-out and watch a movie on TV, which they could do in Sudbury, and they don't participate in the community life they self-identify with.

Edan also mentions that since the Internet age is still so young (relatively speaking), we are quite preoccupied with what it will do to us, how it will affect us, over time.

The Globe yesterday had a similar article, profiling a woman who deleted her Facebook account after customers started finding and friending her (I'm more worried about the kids who bullied me in high school - wtf are they friending me for?) Some of the article focuses on privacy concerns, and corporate salivation over the possible markets in social media memberships, but another quote from a writer who "reduced" his Facebook profile to mainly work-related posts strikes the same chord as above: he said, "you get the sense that you’re someone else’s entertainment. Your life is a product and that to me is a frightening idea.”

There is definitely the possibility that some of us (I confess this happens to me sometimes, but rarely) will be narrating our lives in our heads, pre-packaged for mass consumption (ooooh, wait until I describe this on my FB/Twitter/blog....). I guess, like anything, moderation is key; we just have to figure out if we're capable of it.

Or, you know, you can just subscribe to the Elmdale Tavern's approach to social networking. You don't even need to live in Ottawa to participate!

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