When I was a kid, there were two recurring fantasies that kept me fascinated for years and years:
- What if every moment of my life were being recorded by my glasses so that everything I saw, said and heard was documented for future archivists to explore and piece together the meaning of my existence?
- What if I could know where my friends were and what they were doing all the time?
Those would be kinds of super powers. I was a strange kid. Now I’m 37, and I’ve been given those powers. Its called social networks.
I’ve been thinking a lot about social networks recently – what they are for, how they connect us, how they isolate us, how they can make life seem simultaneously more intimate and more remote.
I did an inventory of the social networks I use:
- Google Plus
And I just joined Pinterest, which apparently is more intended for 20-something ladies planning their weddings.
I don’t use these networks all the same way but they all give me superpowers.
I check Facebook at least 5 times a day. I check in when I am someplace interesting. I post pictures and videos of my daughter. I post articles and I like stuff. Timeline may or may not be a huge violation of my personal privacy but I think it is pretty great that it can aggregate data from my day and put it all together in one neat, well-organized, more or less sequential line. Some of my friends do the same. That’s both powers: the power to document my own life — mundane and sublime — as well as the power to know where my friends are at any given time and what they are doing.
I’ve become a bigger Tweeter just recently. Mostly because it is the most compact, information-rich way to find out what people you are interested in are thinking about. The biggest difference: you “friend” people on Facebook; you “follow” people on Twitter. Reading someone’s Twitter feed can be like peeking inside their brain. People unfollow me from time to time. I don’t get offended. When people “unfriend” me it hurts just a little.
I’ll be honest. I don’t actually use Google Plus very much. I haven’t taken the time to figure out what it’s for. I do like the concept of Circles where groups of friends can share posts but I haven’t had a “group” of friends since early high school. I’m pretty much an everybody or nobody kind of guy these days. So, maybe Google Plus doen’t actually give me superpowers, yet, but if I had a superhero outfit I could do worse than the nifty +1 logo.
I will have to save LinkedIn for another post. I have a passive-aggressive relationship there. I love the ability to see who I know that knows somebody else I know in a completely different context. Superpower: omniscience. The ability to directly perceive how everything is related. Unfortunately, LInkedIn fails to satisfy my kidhood fantasies as I rarely check in and keep meaning to update my profile with all the Important, Serious Stuff I am doing at work. If I’m not updating my basic profile, am I really present?
I underuse the social aspect of this network. I use GoodReads pretty much just to list the books I’ve read and keep track of books I want to read. I do keep up with what a few of my friends are reading there, but, to be honest, my favorite part is posting GoodReads updates to Facebook because that’s where the people are.
Very few comments on my blog so far. To be fair, I very rarely read other WordPress blogs, let alone comment. So, I don’t know for sure that I am actually using WordPress as a social network. But I do get a thrill when people read and tell me they read what I wrote. Superpower: back to the documenting my existence for future scholars. Its the Quotidian in Ubiquitous Quotidian.
PInterest and Tumblr
I’ll leave both of these alone for now since I haven’t used them much. I suspect I’m too wordy to connect with these image blogs much.
I can see that this post started out as one thing and has become something of another. Back to the beginning, Facebook gives me superpowers. That idea deserves another try again soon. I should slow down a bit and notice how I really use Facebook.