Posts Tagged 'Social Media'

Crumbs

Ghosts

The leftover scraps that aren’t used. Not always actively discarded, just not cared for or even noticed in many cases. Think of projects started, but not finished. Photos taken, but not looked at more than (maybe) once. Ideas (poems, songs, papers, letters, thoughts) written down, but not revisited. Slowly turning to dust in an attic or on a shelf somewhere. Pieces of our history and makeup casually brushed aside in favor of the urgent and riveting moments of now. Like film frames on the cutting room floor these annals of our lives succumb to entropy and become trivia, or are completely forgotten. What story would they tell about us?

And what of the people along the way? Some, perhaps important at one time, now relegated to mere acquaintances, or lost to time altogether. Or truly gone. Even the unimportant ones had a story. We could have connected.

And we must know that even though we’re each our own little sphere of awareness in the world, we hold a place of unimportance for others, with the relatively few notable exceptions. Of course, many times it is unnoticed because the process/status is mutual. But sometimes we do see it. There’s that moment where we begin to realize that we’re the scraps of someone else’s life. Our existence may be acknowledged, and maybe we even get a smattering of quality time, but it becomes obvious we don’t really have a place. Even though we may want to, it is not our choice to make. We are discarded. Not in a mean or callous way. Just a thoughtless one. Just like crumbs, we disappear under other footsteps into the pile of the carpet of life and will not be noticed. Quite a hollow feeling when we care enough to recognize it.

So many stories unexplored, like ghosts passing through one another without feeling. We’re too selfish or afraid. What could our lives be if those connections had been made or maintained?

Nurture.

It’s All About Me

Faster Horses Festival Day 1Selfies are great. But the self aggrandizement can get to be a bit much. It lacks depth and detracts from real engagement. We need to teach and learn to apply attention to others. Give them the credit. It’s not really all about us, and (surprise) nobody else cares that much about what you got or even what you’re doing.

Once one accepts that, it becomes possible to more deeply enjoy the moments as you’re in them. Do it. Don’t worry so much about proving it.

No More High School Reunions

HSReunion

Thanks to the ubiquity of social media we have spawned a generation who will never really fall out of touch with one another. Reunions and getting back in touch with old friends or old flames is largely becoming a thing of the past. Curiosity taken away. No more will we wonder where people are or what they are up to as we can all know just about every move our friends make if desired. And so a whole set of complex emotions will not be part of people’s lives going forward.

We still value some meetings in person, but when it comes to something like a high school reunion it could be fairly awkward for many who have the more curated versions of themselves posted on line. So not only is there less perceived need for it, there is actually a notable downside for some (many?). Many will still attend the events for a while, but in the long run they will become a thing of the past.

Small, Powerful, Dumb Computer

GiantPhoneJust ordered the brand new iPhone 6 (the smaller sized one). Of course I have to have the latest and greatest thing, and in my opinion the industrial design and overall integration of Apple’s products are leaps and bounds above other systems out there, even though some of them may have one or two things they appear to do better on the surface.

The iPhone 6 is more powerful than the desktop computer I was using to create audio and video productions 10 years ago. It IS a great computer. Connect a nice keyboard and monitor and you have all you need.

But people don’t do that.

We fool ourselves into believing the marketing and technology promise. And thus people want to buy a phone that’s really a computer in tablet form. They don’t even care much about the phone. They want the power, but they don’t show signs of wanting to interface with it in a substantial way. It is very seductive: a magic device we can use to navigate our worlds with our fingers. But what can it really do in its form?

Sure…you can write a book or term paper on it…if you’re determined enough. You can code on it…if you’re willing to let the project take four times as long. Spread sheets, music projects, rocket trajectories, chemical compounds. It’s all possible, but the really great work isn’t going to be done that way. An Instagram photo is rarely going to be enough to change minds, or pave a new way. The great work requires more. We need to recognize what things are, and what their inherent utility truly is. We need to think about what we want to accomplish with the work we do, before we consider how. Be careful not to let the lack of capability and the seduction of convenience turn into a barrier to the nascent creativity within.

And it is the same with people. Better to understand who and what they really are before we bounce off the walls trying to shoehorn them into being what we need or wish they would be.

(Typed on a MacBook Pro)

Turns Out We’re Not That Interesting

notthatinterestingA current look at the typical feed in Facebook will reveal more posts that are links to other things (photos, articles, etc.). We’ve grown bored with each other’s curated personas presented online.

We just aren’t inherently that interesting to each other.

Most users of services like Facebook have crafted an online persona that may only vaguely resemble their actual life. We all know this intuitively because we all do it to some extent. That gets much less interesting after a while. Further, the audience is much too wide to do it any other way. If it really was limited to our close friends we would probably be much more genuine and open, which would be a lot more compelling for both the poster and the reader.

But these services aren’t interested in us limiting our audience. It’s best for them if things spread widely. In the spirit of keeping as many eyeballs as possible attentive it’s brilliant of them to provide us with so much content to share with friends and acquaintances, and such an easy process for doing it.

Even though it’s not what it once was it’s not always a terrible experience. A compelling article can spawn an engaging discussion sometimes. But we all know it would be personally better if it was more intimate and genuine. The fact that kids don’t really use Facebook anymore is indicative of how it has lost part of its core utility in our lives. They all will continue to evolve.

The Cost of Facts

spacechimpFacts cost virtually nothing once they have been gathered and published. The internet and television cause many to perceive facts are all readily available. Everything we could want to know (not to mention what we don’t want to know) is up for grabs.

But facts are actually expensive. Someone has to figure it out that first time. An organization has to send reporters or information gatherers, or maybe pay to have a study done, or do rigorous experiments, or real detective work to get to the bottom of it. Someone spent real time and possibly money to acquire the expertise to deliver.

Consumers and information organizations have a choice. News organizations can pay professionals to go investigate and gather facts, not to mention culling it all down and putting it into a relevant context. This costs real money. Or they can pay a couple of people a few hundred dollars to scream at each other on TV for a few minutes.

Both types of information are available on air and online. Consumers choose and the market responds. We can hardly blame the market, and I assume we don’t want any organization “controlling” the news, nor the way it’s presented (more than is already happening).

Opting for free or cheap is easy and usually appears to make pretty good sense on the surface, but someone somewhere will hopefully be willing to pay to truly get the real, factual information we need to make sense of the world. The scary thing is, who? Corporations? Government? Whoever pays has the most control. Period. It’s already happening before our eyes. The value of facts and science is being challenged more and more every day, and you don’t need to pay anyone to tell you that much.

The Selfie

ArtisticSelfieSelfies are all the rage. People rant negatively about them all the time. A teenager’s preoccupation with taking pictures of herself indeed represents a certain amount of self-absorption. But it’s really just a visible sign of an attitude that exists anyway. It puts it out there in a demonstrative way that makes it easier for the rest to see…and be annoyed. The display of vanity. The need for validation. These things aren’t caused by the selfie. It’s just a manifestation of our culture.

How bad of a problem is this really?

Taking photos of oneself is actually a great opportunity to learn about what beauty is. Seeing other people’s selfies is part of that process. One learns how she looks more objectively in photos. The unique features that make you you begin to surface. And the observant eventually starts to recognize that those ARE the things that are distinctive and beautiful.

The feedback pressure cooker of social media, which spawned the need for selfies in the first place, isn’t always the most supportive environment, however that very feedback does serve to validate and inform. It’s a harsh world of subjective assessments, but it’s one you’re in anyway. Since so much in our culture ends up being based on our appearance it’s becoming a necessity that we be more aware of how we actually appear. You ARE going to be judged on your looks. But not just on how well you fit in to a classical interpretation of beauty. Your overall vibe, including a glimpse into your personality, is part of it, and much about that is also conveyed in the look and feel of how you present yourself. All things that the selfie begins to reveal to you and the world. A bit of marketing one learns to refine over time.

There is a more practical side. Text accompanied by selfies much more effectively communicates intent and mood than just text alone.

The Seven Habits Versus Effective Data

The entire professional landscape is about to be turned on its ear. We all know that the role of colleges has changed — diminished. The curated processes, despite all of the inherent biases contained in a college education, have historically formed a useful measure of potential. It’s a specific look at one thing a person is good at: attending college.

What other things trigger assessments about an employee’s potential? Who should get hired? And once hired who should get the most/best resources to help with advancement? Volumes have been written about how fraught with problems our methods are. And it’s not just the biases. Biases are often helpful, when you listen to the right ones. There are lots of things that appear to correlate, but only certain of those really matter. As advanced as we are in some ways, our methods of evaluating and nurturing talent have pretty much sucked. And we wonder why people switch jobs so much.

Moreover, we’ve created in the process a sort of mythical tower of characteristics and achievements to aspire to. Hold these basic characterizations and distinctions and you will succeed…as if what it fundamentally takes to be a great game programmer is in many consequential ways similar to what it takes to be a great nurse. It’s comforting to think we know the select set of things they must and must not have in common, but it turns out we are often wrong.

Enter big data. Our ability to analyze in useful ways large volumes of data is exploding. And it is just because there is SO much data that it can work. Each of us is now leaving a sort of data exhaust of everything we do in our wake. Sophisticated algorithms can make use of that, and by comparing actual outcomes it is possible to accurately predict what we will do, as well has how well we are suited for various activities. This is truly scary stuff.

DataExhuast

Google no longer factors GPA in for anyone more than two years out of school. Data has shown it is not a viable predictor of success in their organization. Xerox (old, staunch company set in its ways?) determined that the ideal employee participates (is not just a member) in at least one but not more than four social networks. Bear in mind this is just one, small data point amidst many, but it is weighed as a factor. You can’t argue with the data. The results are clear and getting clearer. In fact, many of their hiring managers don’t even want to take the time to do interviews anymore because the assessments made therein aren’t as reliable at predicting success as the scores of their sophisticated battery of tests and accompanying research. Anecdotally you can say they may miss a gem in the rough, or that the tests create their own, self-fulfilling prophesy (valid points), but this type of thing is being systematically studied by many firms and the results are clear. In a world where results drive the bottom line certain mistakes or some slop around the edges can be deemed acceptable.

Once a person is at work in a firm it is even easier to collect volumes of data about everything she does. Once you have enough, and have taken the time to compare it to results…the picture comes in to focus.

Scary? Bad? There is certainly a philosophical gray area here. Privacy is quickly becoming a thing of the past as we volunteer more information in widely distributed form than ever before. It’s what people and organizations might DO with all that data that scares us (yet we put it out there anyway). Something you wrote or did years ago could come back to haunt you. Or maybe not. Maybe the thing you think would be bad for others to know might actually help you. It depends on the outcomes of others who did similar things.

Consider all the research showing that happiness at work depends greatly on feeling a sense of agency. If these new tools get people into better fitting jobs where they will tend to succeed more it’s probably a good thing for them, not to mention the companies they work for. Further, the tools can be used to clue people in on their own data that they are generating, which could enable them to better guide themselves in developing their personal effectiveness. If you could look at the data results from the person who got the job you’d like, and compare it to your own, you might be able to make some changes that would help. Can this data be manipulated to fake something about yourself? It’s possible, but there is so much of it, and it can be acquired from so many facets of what you do that you’d practically have to change your behavior through virtually every waking moment of your life…at which point it could be argued you now are that new person you set out to be.

Scary, but think of the possibilities. Then juxtapose it all on to other endeavors such as dating. It’s a big opportunity fraught with big problems. One way or the other mouths must be watering in the law firms!

Documented Kids

dossierKids are growing up in a world where their entire existence is documented and likely widely available on the net. Parents and other relatives have probably shared numerous details and photos by the time the child is old enough to talk. Later, friends will add to this database.

Technology is just beginning to mature around all of this information. Facial recognition, and systems that build and manage metadata are all conspiring to take any schred of privacy away. Imagine a cute kid photographed in front of the house with the house number visible in the background. Triangulate that against a photo of her parent at work with a logo in the background. Find a blog post written by the parent containing a negative parenting experience relating to the child.

While there are some safety concerns to be mindful of, the “needle in a haystack” principle applies. Unless there is some reason for your kid to be a target she is probably just lost in all the noise. But all of these things are starting to be tied together in such a way that the child will have a semi-public identity before he or she has had a chance to manifest her own, actual identity.

Could that innocent blog post later cost her a chance at a job? Or maybe they determine the health insurance will be too high because she “liked” fried chicken. Will that innocent photo of her at one year of age in the bathtub become a source of embarrassment when another kid posts it at school? Will the child be targeted in sophisticated ways (unbeknownst to the parents) by savvy marketers?

We’re all public figures these days so we may as well get used to it. Our generation did it to ourselves. Now we’re bringing along a generation where it has been done for them…to them.

We might want to think about that. I’m not suggesting that we take things so far as to choose names according to what Google finds (as some do), or that we preregister our children to Facebook and YouTube (as some do), but they’ll later appreciate it if we’re mindful enough in what we post that they have a chance to decide for themselves a little bit about what they want their public persona to be.

The Genuine Article

Which is the real one?

You can hire an advanced art student to make a good enough reproduction of a valuable work of art that most people wouldn’t be able to tell it from the original if it were not side-by-side.

Why then, would we not have such a work displayed in our homes? Is it because everyone would know its a fraud, and thus we somehow seem like a fraud by association? Perhaps. That is surely part of it.

Spot-Fake-Gucci-Bags1-279x117Consider the value of an imitation Gucci handbag. You can buy one on a busy corner in any big city around the world for a fraction of the cost of the real thing, and the good ones are almost indistinguishable to people not in the business.  People are much more prone to be carrying one of these fakes than displaying a fake work of art in their homes. Why? Mostly because the utility of the bag is the same either way. Also…the likelihood that it could be real is much, much higher. Women see them and assess the rest of the woman carrying one trying to decide if they think it’s real. Why do we even care?

forddb9Does the Ford driver think anyone believes he’s driving a DB9? Does he care? The utility of the car is not the same as the real thing in this case, but to many people it’s close enough in some ways that they are able to rationalize that it’s ‘just as good’ for a fraction of the price (though some surely have no idea the DB9 even exists). The handbag purchaser can make the same claim.

Why do we have to rationalize?  Because the real deal, the genuine article has an inherent value, and we know it. We know people care about that, and we know that when we buy into a fake it says something about us. About our ability to discern or about our character (trying to fool people). The genuine article has the added benefit of being honest, though possibly pretentious.

Marketers have long known and capitalized on the fact that they are able easily seduce us into believing that our identities are strongly associated with the products and services we buy. A person may not buy the expensive car because it’s actually too embarrassing to drive it in the day to day situations where he lives. If a marketer of the less expensive one can appeal to the sensibilities of that person a sale is made.

Likewise we feel our identities are tied to the other identities we associate with. We use products and services to feel a certain way about ourselves, and to communicate that to the world, but we also use people. Part of a person’s utility to us is simply in the way she makes us feel, a part of which is the value of the association in forming the perceptions of others looking in. There is always duality between the perceived benefits a person actually brings to us, plus the perceived nudging of the perceptions of others from the association itself.

We sense that there’s a certain amount of marketing or manipulation in the persona that gets put forth, and so, again, the person who comes across as being genuine shows up as being valuable. A known quantity. Trusted. Others may be able to make similar or even greater appearances, and we may be seduced by those, however the intrinsic value of the genuine article factors in.

We may get fooled and be able to fool others on occasion, but when the truth emerges genuine is validated.


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