re: look at me.

October 12, 2009

I think I’ve established the fact that I love to share. And this post reminds me I’m not alone. However, I have not embraced the automatic sharing capabilities that have emerged and become quite prevalent. I feel like I’m stuck halfway between those who grew up with the Internet and those who didn’t. I want to take full advantage of everything, but at the same time, I’m wary of it.

The idea of Last.fm keeping track of what music I listen to or Google Latitude keeping track of where I am removes a sense of control I like having over my sharing habits. It reminds me of this comment about the new Internet. I’m more than willing to monitor my image online despite having a zillion sites to watch and maintain. I’m not willing to do this with my life in general. So anything online about me is there purely because I put in the effort to share it. And sexting – ok, I’ve never done it. But I think this falls into a completely different category of sharing than others, and I’m not even going there in this post.

While the need to share might be inherent, the need to broadcast on the Internet is not. I think part of the newer generation’s need to share stems from the want to find people who are similar and who sympathize. Before, if you felt like an outcast, you were pretty much stuck. Now, you can find a community online to relate to. On the flip side, you get a lot of negativity from strangers as well, so you need some tough skin. I think the other part stems from the idea of reciprocation. You share something with me, and I feel obligated to then offer you information about me. This happens in real life, and I think it’s just increased online because there was the idea that you could be a dog and I wouldn’t know it unless you specifically shared that you weren’t.

The way the Internet seems to be going, broadcasting your life isn’t about to disappear. In fact, I think more recently, it seems that more and more sites are targeted at putting everyday activities online. Last.fm tracks my music (except I don’t use it), Readernaut tracks my books, Amazon tracks my shopping, Remember the Milk tracks my to-do lists, Flickr tracks my photos, Facebook tracks my contacts, and Twitter tracks the odds and ends. Really, most of these sites are aimed at helping me document my life for me, almost a form of extreme journaling. It just so happens other people can read it too. As more of my life goes online, it’s more about me than others. In a sense, I think it started as sharing because it was new and fun. But more and more things are being hidden with privacy controls and select account access. In the end it’s going to be about me having access to my information rather than you having access to my information.


  1. Hum… I don’t know if I would really blog if absolutely noone read it. I suppose there was a time when I used blogs like a journal, but nowadays they are really more a forum to talk and think about stuff that wouldn’t normally come up in a conversation.

    When I’m hanging out and whatnot, conversations are usually very lighthearted. So the topics I blog about almost never really fit into that kind of an atmosphere. The problem of course is that I spend way more time thinking about that stuff than, say, video games or movies.

    Writing it up online just ends up being one of the few ways to open these thoughts up for discussion without actually forcing anyone to talk about something they might feel uncomfortable/not care about.

    Readernaut looks interesting though, I think I might go make an account to go with my soon to arrive Kindle(woot!).

    • Do you think things are less awkward to discuss online than in person? I’ve realized that the amount and subjects I’m willing to discuss both in real life and online have definitely increased, but I’m not sure if I share more in person because I blog or if I blog more because I’ve started sharing more in real life.

      Also, Readernaut – not very exciting. Especially not exciting for tracking progress. Probably better at tracking actual finished books, but I’m terrible at updating it.

      • It’s easier to share and discuss online just because you don’t actually have to see the other person’s face or hear them speak.

        I think that sharing more online has allowed me to loosen up a bit more in real life conversation, but, then again, the stuff I write about on a regular basis is hardly personal 99% of the time.

      • Like Dan I don’t get *too* personal in my blog posts. I mostly use it as a way to throw an idea out there and see what others think. And sometimes to just vent my frustrations.

      • I don’t know if I’d say a subject is less awkward just because it’s online. I think we just don’t feel as bad about it because cues like the long pauses and weird stares from the other person aren’t there anymore.

        Also, I think we generally feel better about our responses to awkward situations online, because we have time to think out and proof read what we say. As oppose to the split second to react when you’re talking in person.

        But I do agree that the more you talk about a subject(anywhere), the less awkward it becomes. I imagine it works in the same way as building a close friendship or relationship. The more you talk to someone, the easier it gets to talk about anything.

    • I know I wouldn’t blog if no one read it and I know Dan said he was pulled back into blogging from nearly quitting because he was able to see (thanks to a plugin) how many people were coming to his blog and what types of articles they were searching for. I love getting comments if what I wrote inspired someone to write back.

  2. Neat that my post inspired you to write a post of your own! I was pleasantly surprised to see the trackback in my WordPress dashboard.

    I like that you mentioned compatibility with others. This is something I always like to compare with Dan to see if the machines think we’re as compatible with music and video games as we think we are. Great point to bring up.

    I’m not sure if you’ve considered (ie blogged) this before, but your comments about how easy it is to find sympathizing groups instead of feeling like an outcast can have some interesting negative effects. For example, in Japan there are increasing numbers of mass suicides happening when people find each other online and decide to commit suicide together. I don’t remember enough to get into the sociological reasons for this, but for some reason, in Japan it’s better to commit suicide together than alone. Somewhat related to the lovers’ suicides that happen there with enough regularity to be stereotypical.

    Additionally, wackos like the Birthers (people who allege Obama isn’t eligible to be president because he was born in Kenya) can find others who think like they do and therefore not reject the idea as wacky.

    I’m not saying it’s all bad. We both know most things in live are not that black and white. I was just curious if you’d considered this.

    Sexting was, as you mentioned, a bit of an outlier in that most of the other things I mentioned were Internet-based and at least have (like last.fm) were automatically generated. But I mentioned it because it is a relatively new phenomenon enabled by tech involving sharing.

    • Never blogged about the negative effects of finding community online. I guess I don’t think the idea of crazies finding other crazies is any worse than if they were all just alone. If you’re actively searching out people who want to commit suicide or people who deny the Holocaust happened, is not finding other similar people really going to change your opinion or actions? I actually think finding a strong online community hurts real life opportunities. If you reach a point where you feel that your online friends “get” you more than your real life friends, there’s much less incentive to put in any effort to branch out or improve your real life connections when technology makes it so easy to communicate with other people.

      • I would saw the way in which crazies finding each other can be worse is that they can then act as a group. Let’s go all the way to the extreme. Let’s say someone in Montana is a disaffected dude pissed off at the US government. On his own, if he expressed his opinions to others, they’d probably tell him he was being way too drastic. Go online and he meets others who are also pissed off at the government and they escalate their feelings as they reinforce each other. Finally, they decide to get together and commit an act of terrorism. The reason I picked Montana is that perhaps there would only be one such person in Montana. But, by going online he can find other people around the US. Whereas someone in NYC, LA, Chicago, Miami, etc can probably find other dissidents without the help of the net.

        I *do* like the new point you make about people having less of an incentive to make real world friends. It’s one I rarely think of, but is apparently somewhat of an epidemic in some parts of Asia. I’m thinking of these Japanese guys, I forget what they’re called, but they’re grown men who live with their parents. They refuse to leave their rooms – to the point where their mothers have to bring them food to their door to get them to eat. This is agoraphobia to the extreme. And they become huge celebrities online. People celebrate them and become huge friends with them for being so solitary. And by having these friends, they don’t see a reason to get over their anxieties and meet real people. Googled it – these guys have hikikomori.

        I couldn’t find the article that described the Japanese guy(s) that were net celebs, but here are two articles on the subject.



      • I think I agree with Kai here. Crazy folks are gonna do what they’re gonna do.

        I mean yes, reinforcement in numbers is probably not a great way to make them less crazy. But at the same time, I would much prefer this guy from Montana went around posting his devious plans on the internet, as oppose to him building god knows what by himself in a basement. The more people he meets and “team up” with online, the higher the chance of someone with a conscience finding it and reporting it.

        It’s the wonderful thing about the internet. Your buddy in crime could very well be a government agent ready to crack down on your face.

      • The phrase “crack down on your face” just won the thread.

      • Min makes an excellent point. Also, I second the phrase “crack down on your face”

  3. They are hikikomori, they don’t have it.

    • Good point. I think one of the articles made it seem like something they had.

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