I just read a post by a new blogger at our school, sharing this post by Charlie Booker about over-sharing. As a notorious over-sharer I felt obligated to respond in some way. To be fair, Booker does admit that as a writer he understands the value of sharing thoughts and ideas. How could he not as he makes his living writing a weekly column? His biggest qualm is with automatic sharing services on every app out there.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for sharing thoughts, no matter how banal (as every column I have ever written rather sadly proves). Humans will always babble. If someone wants to tweet that they can’t decide whether to wear blue socks or brown socks, then fair enough. But when sharing becomes automated, I get the heebie-jeebies.
He goes on to say
Online, you play at being yourself. Apply that pressure of public performance to private, inconsequential actions – such as listening to songs in the comfort of your own room – and what happens, exactly?
I am not sure I “play at being myself” any more online than I do in real life, but that is a different post. I also don’t feel that listening to songs in the comfort of my own room is an inconsequential action, but I am weird like that! I will assume, for the purpose of this post, it is agreed and understood that Booker values and understands voluntary sharing of meaningful ideas and thoughts. I will not share my thoughts on the value of blogging or sharing content in this post. This leaves me wondering if I even need to defend the sort of automated sharing that gives Booker the heebie-jeebies.
It’ll only get worse. Here’s what I am listening to on Spotify. This is the page of the book I am reading. I am currently watching the 43rd minute of a Will Ferrell movie. And I’m not telling you this stuff. The software is. I am a character in The Sims. Hover the cursor over my head and watch that stat feed scroll.
I get what he is saying, that when these shared acts becoming automated, take away from their authenticity. In fact I agree, I do not like any automated Tweets or messages. I don’t need to know how far you ran, unless you are telling me in some kind of context. However, what I want to push back on a little is the idea that we are always sharing meaningless data to strangers who don’t care. The idea of a network or community is that you do know these people. They are not strangers. You hope that they share their lives with you in order to enrich your life. A network should be a reciprocal arrangement. It is a relationship. If this is not the case and you feel members are strangers than why are they there? A network is only as meaningful as you allow it to be. If it is filled with noise from strangers, there is no one to blame but yourself. If members of your network are not enriching your life then you need to prune them out. Secondly, the things we share-what we listen to, what we read and/or watch, can only help strengthen ties with people who do care. These meaningless pieces of data, at last for me, are the glue that keep my network together.
I can’t count how many people I have met through conversations after I tweeted that I like this song or am reading that book. Media/art bring people together and binds them. I know I can trust a person if they are as obsessed with Elliott Smith as I am. You love HST or Charles Bukowsi? Let’s talk more. I like think of his last line:
You know how annoying it is when you’re sitting on the train with a magazine and the person sitting beside you starts reading over your shoulder? Welcome to every single moment of your future.
More like this: You know how amazing it is when you’re sitting on the train with a magazine and your friend sitting beside you starts talking about how they also love what you are read.
But what do I know, I am a compulsive over-sharer. Did I tell you, by the way, that I just started reading Columbine by David Cullen, or and I just discovered this band called Of Monster and Men through some friends on Facebook. What do you think? Have you read it? Heard of them? Can you share your thoughts and give me suggestions?
I never actually defended the automation of updates…oh yeah…now that I think about it, no! I don’t like it either. Share and share often, but do it with awareness.