Wednesday, January 30

This is not about me.

A new post from Nic Hodges helped coalesce some of my recent thinking about social messaging and social networks. Nic talks about how two-way, conversational media is now becoming as involving and entertaining as, say, '60 Minutes'. And a lot more entertaining than 'Girls of the Playboy Mansion.' No, really.

Why is this so? How can smileys out-engage boobies?

The simple answer is that rediscovering that real people’s real lives can be entertaining, informative and engaging too.

But the complex-erer answer that I don't yet have any evidence beyond a strong gut feel is that documenting the events in your life - and how that changes you - is an activity that doesn’t only gain you an audience, it also helps you define and refine who you have been, are currently, and are becoming.

Defining who you were/are/will be is as compelling as it gets.

Girls of the Playboy Mansion: come on, seriously, you can't tell me this is entertainment...

Your identity isn’t just who you are now. It’s a vector, or a series of curves perhaps. It starts in the past, charting your passage through the events and ideas you’ve experienced and your reaction to those events and ideas.

That vector passes through the present, and that’s what we see of someone and usually think of identity. But the present is only the thinnest possible cross-section of your identity and in isolation gives only the slightest suggestion of who you will become as you continue on into the future.

I think social messaging and social networking is so fundamentally engaging because it gives us an opportunity to capture key moments of our identity as we move forward in time, leaving a documented history behind us, interwoven with the events, ideas, and people we’ve been introduced to along the way, and leaving evidence of how we’ve been influenced by them.

My prediction: browsing real people’s lives and documenting our own for others to browse will be the new entertainment hit for the 2020s. Partly because network television quality can sink no lower, partly because social messaging and social networking is just plain fun.

But mostly because, way down deep inside, we're learning about ourselves. 

And nobody's more interesting than me. Or you. Unless you happen to be me.

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