The Medium isn't the Message

Social Existence

When [some of] the world bifurcated around a line, those that came on found a new social space to create themselves anew.

A division was articifically introduced, because one of the inital effects of computer mediated interaction was the draw of anonymity or the appeal of being someone else, leveraging the space between who you were IRL and your forum handle.

Initially, it was assumed that anonymity was a fundamental aspect of Computer Mediated Communication:

The issue of anonymity is often privileged in CMC scholarship (e.g., Etzioni & Etzioni, 1999; McKenna & Bargh, 2000; Postmes, Spears, Sakhel, & de Groot, 2001; Turkle, 1995).

Some studies have attributed anti-social online behaviors to anonymity (Davis, 2002; Suler & Philips, 1998).

Others have shown that it may foster group norm violations (Jessup, Connolly, & Galegher, 1990; Postmes & Spears, 2000).

Communication online is also characterized as "hyperpersonal" due in part to anonymity (Nowak, Watt, & Walther, 2005; Walther, 1996). That is, the lack of visual cues allows people to selectively self-present for better impression management.

Anonymity and Self-Disclosure on Weblogs

But the draw to disclose who we are, at least partially, is too strong for a social creature whose unique identity as part of a group, is core to our sense of self and self worth.

Our ability to empathize from our own experience is the emotional medium through which we can communicate with other minds.

Then the whole social thing enabled a generation to mediate itself, and identity online became more about self-restraint than self disclosure. 

Platform by platform, what used to be a profile or homepage became a footprint, a distributed identity that expressed itself in different ways in different places.

Content syndicates itself automatically, cross pollinating from the blog to twitter and facebook and back again.

Mapping out a social ecosystem for brands came naturally to those who had seen their own social ecosystem develop and grow, and so intuitively knew how to use these emerging tools and platforms.

To understand the ebbs and flows of attention one really needs to live in the stream. 

[I remember when I first put a URL on my curriculum vitae. Now if you don't have some web presence on there it suggests you have opted out, and you need to be ready to discuss why.]

New aggregation platforms like Flavors.Me use the magic of RSS to stitch your distributed digital identity back together. 

But sometimes it can seem daunting, trying to keep up with an accelerated culture, maintaining the constant stream of phatic pings [and re-pings] that constitute networked relationships.

Jake from Zoomdoggle hired help:

Seriously, I have a problem:
- I have 642 unopened messages on Facebook and haven’t posted a status update since October 1st.
- I have 3,639 followers on Twitter and, though I tweeted 4 times yesterday, each one was a struggle.
- I try to post 6-8 times per day here on Zoomdoggle, but somehow talking about fun is keeping me from having any.
- My primary email account (gmail) currently has 29,568 unread messages. Admittedly most are newsletters I’ve signed up for, or notes from my mom who’s currently bedridden with little more than a laptop to entertain her, still, it’s hard to keep up.

I need a break. Just for a week.

I need someone to take over my Facebook correspondence, picture posting, and commenting. I need someone to blog for me. I need someone to twitter, thumb things up and down on Stumbleupon, and vote things “cute” or “wtf” on Buzzfeed.

Companies are being forced to reconsider how they communicated with customers - from promotional campaigns and customer service bottlenecks, to ongoing monitoring and resolution in real time across whichever engagement space the customer wants to reach out on. 

They are also reaching out for assistance, recruiting new staff and agencies to help manage the tasks.

Whilst 'Google Xistence' is clearly not real and not really from Google, it nevertheless highlights a tension that applies to both individuals and companies.

It suggests a dichotomy, one echoed by George today on PSFK:

Isn’t there some kind of moral there? Like, if you want to get stuff done, stop arseing about with   social media, and get on with it.

But it's not as simple as either / or.

You need a social profile to engage with other people and the world - but you need to be doing other stuff, constantly, to feed it.

To be successful in social spaces, you need to be active in the world.

Or, to put it another way, if you want to have [and be the topic of] interesting conversations, do stuff worth talking about.