Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Taking a step back to get a step ahead

When I was car shopping earlier this year I noticed that any time I mentally decided on a car, I would start to see it everywhere. I would go through phases where I was committed to a VW GTI, a Scion tC, Honda Civic si, Mazda RX8, the list is endless really. I would research the cars on auto blogs, Consumer Reports, and YouTube. No sooner after the research begin, those cars would be everywhere on the road. I would park next to them at the grocery store, be stopped next to them at a red light, be cut off by one on the highway. 

I am experiencing a similar thing right now with social media. There is a theme that is happening in the blogging sphere revolving around social media dependency. SocialMedia.biz refers to it as "digital media intimacy". I rather enjoy that title.

JD Lasica makes a good point about how status updates taken one by one can seem a bit trite and inane. When captured over a long period of time, these updates can give a significant insight into friends' lives. He notes how "little snippets coalesce into a surprisingly sophisticated portrait of your friends' and family member's lives, like thousands of dots making a pointillist painting."

I suppose that relying on the "big picture" approach can seem a bit cliche, but it has a point. I am guilty of constantly living in a state that revolves around micro-updating, micro-analyzing, micro-digetizing. True clarity tends to be found only when one steps back from that "micro" default position. Switching between micro-blogging and actual blogging/journaling is a significant feat for me. I have to transition my mind from being compulsively stucatto and (attempt) to find a way to create a well-strucutred flow. Like I said before, discussions about social media can't be designated into "good" or "bad" catagories. Stepping back and taking a look at the "big picture" is important, but only if it includes the up-close smaller picture as well. 

Twitter has done many a thing for me (besides hooking me). It has allowed me to learn things about 'strangers' that I would never thing to ask best friends. I have twotwitter friends who come to mind right off the bat. I met one of them here at Juniper. We hired a company to help us with our persona process (a topic for a future blog) and I gave her a ride up to SF after our two day session was through. We had the hour drive to talk and get to know eachother somewhat, but it was in no way an in-depth friendship. Twitter has allowed me to know how her days are going, how the weather in Seattle is, what technology she is interested in. I get to hear what comments were passed her way on transit to and from work, and see Flickr updates when she changes her haircut. Now, I feel like I know her well. I care as much about her as I do my friends I see at work every day.  

Another twitter friend and I met at a conference in LA. Our love for music, cars and high-tech gadgetry was an instant bond. Twitter has allowed me to expand a significiant friendship from that point forward. It is doubtful I would have communicated with him through e-mail because it seems like a bit too much of a comitment to a person I dont technically know. I would never pick up the phone to call him. I hardly do that with friends I have known all my life. But I am still able to grasp the important parts of his life. 

Since micro-blogging comes from what the individual finds most important, it provides a different form of insight. There is a particular quality behind the reasons for the post. The dialogue is so uncharacteristic of anything that would ever happen organically face to face. It would be like taking a walk with a friend where you never exchanged words with one another, you just commented about things that were relevant to you at that moment. 

"Just tripped on uneven pavement, so glad no one was around to catch that."
"Looks like traffic is impossible again. Herds of soccer moms shuffling kids, I'm sure."

That style of dialogue doesnt exist outside of the blogging-sphere. It is because of this, that I have a fondness for it. Even though it isn't particulary natural, it shows a different angle of a person, which is exactly what I hunt for on the day-to-day.

My best friend and I talk every day. We IM, facebook message, text message enough to blow up the airways, and every so often call eachother when the other mediums just wont suffice. Even though I know nearly everything about her life and have up to the minute updates via text message, I still encourage her to join twitter or blog because her voice would come acrossed so differently. I would love to see how she chooses to convey herself in the micro (or macro) blogging sphere.

I'll keep my eyes posted for more material on this phenomenon. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

1 comment:

Ariel said...

I feel the same way about being ambiently close to your life via Twitter. I've grown to know more of your character, and especially enjoyed sharing car geekery, and definitely have a stake in your well-being as a result. Thanks for writing about this stuff! A coworker's blog you might enjoy: www.websocialarchitecture.com