Friday, January 28, 2011

Sell this!

Have come across a couple of things over the past couple of days in thinking about the use of the Web/social networks and our relationship to them and each other.
First is this link as the article deals with self-perception, perception of others as sellers, the shift from being simply in relationships with others to having those relationships leveraged for numbers, as the writer of the article states, of LOL’s and likes that seem to determine some type of truth about individual as the poster or poseur as the case may be. Or at least the total number of clicks seem to grant some kind of meaning to us as users/people. I particularly like what this article says about the constant selling of ourselves. How does this effect our perception of ourselves or how does it cause us to want to generate other versions of ourselves which may or may not be actually true. Or we become so split managing our multiple “personalities” that any effort in deciding what is true gets subsumed to managing that personality/profile.
There's another way to talk about this which is captured nicely below via Sherry Turkle interview with Colbert. (While Colbert's style tends towards the aggressive, I think he's asking some of the right questions, it's not the right forum for Turkle to actually elucidate her thinking. But she gets in a couple of noteworthy points despite the chuckles.)
"We have lost respect that some argument do take the long form. Some arguments do take a book." And this idea of length and time is a grounding motif throughout the rest of her conversation with Colbert. In a somewhat serious question Colbert asks why not make this book about technology 140 characters long so people can absorb it. In particular Turkle suggest that in general people are "...begin[ing] to ask simpler questions so that they can give simpler answers because the volume and velocity [of the messages] ramps up..." More time is being spent on volume/speed than depth/marination. Turkle has a particularly resonant point with the article above toward the end of the interview in responding to Colbert's statement that aren't we all better connected and knowing each other because we are connected all the time through social media, like Facebook. Turkle nails it: "People are performing on their Facebook profile." And because we are constantly connected, Turkle suggests that there is actually performance exhaustion in needing to be constantly "on" in the several levels of meaning that word indicates. On= not missing. On=connected On=computer booted up On=that you are tweeting/facebook statusing interesting/likable items. On=stage. On=the constant public display of some true/false/half-true/half-false representation of ourselves as we desire to be seen and known. Not only do we have the opportunity to craft how others think about us but in crafting our online performance through a series of quotes there is the opportunity to craft how we think about ourselves which is probably not true.
Not only is there performance exhaustion but I wonder if there is not fear of being disconnected, of missing, of no longer being "on". Colbert, either purposefully or not, captures the standard response that any attempt to disconnect, albeit temporarily, or take a step back out of the information stream requires that individual to stop being on for a certain reflective period of time. If this performance idea is true, I think it is, then any attempt to reflect on this type of use also requires a break in performance or selling. There's the idea of having to selling a performance so that the dichotomy of sales and acting are not that far apart. If we are all simultaneously selling and acting towards each other, will we notice when actual communication and interaction stops? Or will we have committed so fully and so deeply to our own perceived roles to have sold ourselves to ourselves?

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Sherry Turkle
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