Analog+digital self= Me?

4 Oct

Hello everyone!

Will you excuse me from that, but I don’t want to present myself and my background here. I’ve already written a long nonsense egotistic banter in my “About” page, so you are encouraged to read it if you want to know a bit more of myself…

So, straight to the point, after a great weekend with incredible sun and warm temperatures in Manchester, it is already time to write the long-awaited first post in this professional blog. Not without saying that this great weekend was not spent in vain: reading Chapter 5 of Nancy Baym’s “Personal connections in the digital age” and Chapter 7 of Vincent Miller’s “Understanding digital culture” has been revealing and sometimes confusing, too. The essentialist and poststructuralist chat was way over my brain, but anyway, it was quite enlightening too.

A really good piece of paper.

Simply put and in my own words, nowadays almost everyone from 16 to 65 years old can have an online profile in whatever Social Network they prefer (or lots of them). I may go further to say that someone in the age range from 17 to 42 is almost sure to have a profile in Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or the like. We don’t seem to be complete people if we don’t take good advantage of the fun and insightful knowledge that may come by using these social networks to contact people we had long lost in the tide of time or who are very far away.

My first experiences with social networks date back to year 2000, when I first got Internet connection and some school friends of mine taught me how to use the now almost extinct IRC to have real-time conversations with them. It was weird at first, but we had a way to tackle some schoolwork together instead of using the telephone. So I started using a spanish IRC provider and slowly started entering chat rooms that showcased my preferences at the time: #beatles, #magicthegathering and stuff like that. With the care that any person my age should take when chatting with strange people, I got to know very knowledgeable and educated, really nice people in these topics… and also people who were not so kind or good. But those were the least, thankfully. As I’ve never been really into creating an invented self online, I preferred to keep things simple and be sincere and honest about who I was, just without telling details that would make me vulnerable to whatever fool decided to get around the chatrooms. And it has worked well since then. So I guess that was the start of the creation of a “digital self” as I’ve been accounted to in the reading aforementioned. I didn’t even know what I was doing at that time!

Some years later MSN Messenger was the trend, so everyone around created a hotmail account to be able to use it with friends. Slowly, users started migrating from IRC chat rooms that were topic-based to the more “personalized” environment of Messenger where you could talk without having to be interested in a particular topic. Besides, you were able to send files easier and faster than on IRC. At that time, I also created my personal webpage in Geocities, now long lost since Yahoo decided to close it (or not that much. You should visit this webpage about the deleted city. Maybe I can find it someday again!).

Geocities, the long lost kick-start to personal webpages

Geocities, the long lost kick-start to personal webpages

Building a personal website did make me feel like creating something, a “digital identity” based on my true self, my likes, dislikes, passions and capabilities. I wasn’t really conscious of that with IRC, Messenger or whatever, but I felt it with my personal webpage. I have felt it again, but in a more professional way when creating RuidoBlanco, my personal studio’s website to promote and explain my recording equipment and work. For the sake of advertising myself a little bit, I’m giving you the link to it, although it’s only in Spanish since I haven’t found the time yet to translate it into English. But you can check it anyway and listen to the sound samples of my work! 🙂

As I said, since MSN Messenger, real time social networking started to flow at a fast pace with the MySpace fever at first and then Facebook, Orkut and in Spain, Tuenti. To be honest, I never liked MySpace: it seemed too complicated to use for me and the design seemed kind of weird. I used it when I played in a band to try and promote ourselves but we never really got around it so we let it die. Following the MySpace fever I remember the famous Fotolog, which hasn’t been mentioned neither by Nancy Baym nor Vincent Miller in their books! I think that it was the king of its time along with MySpace, the place where one could showcase a life by photos, taken by yourself or not, photos of yourself or not; even if you were not an accomplished photographer (but way better if you were). It gave lots of beautiful teenagers a good window to showcase their “goods” to each other with little effort, and it also gave the rest of the people the chance to make their lives appear interesting and artistic.

Both MySpace and Fotolog (and even MSN Messenger!) have seen a big decrease in their users in the last years in favor of the almighty Facebook or other networks in China like RenRen.com or some others. In Spain, the main Facebook competitor is called Tuenti, an invitation-only social network which is mainly focused for youngsters who want to casually meet each other… and let’s be sincere, to flirt with each other like they used to do in Fotolog. I deleted my account in Tuenti some months ago as I found it worthless; I prefered to center in the one I have in Facebook and my other Twitter account.

Why this fast changes in social networks in the last years? As Baym and Miller point out, Facebook and similar SNS seem to give users the biggest number of pieces in the puzzle to construct a complete and meaningful digital persona by interweaving photos, videos, text comments, content sharing and real time chat. It is as close as it gets to interacting during a certain amount of time with a person in a real world context. Facebook has always been a step forward what users thought “it would be great to have this and that capability”, and it has been a blast because of that. Well done, Mr. Zuckerberg!

But my personal opinion is that Social Networks, despite their good intentions can be dangerous too. We can choose to become creators of consumable content by only showcasing the version of us that is good enough for the world to see, instead of showing who we really are in real-time. We can be creating consciously an image based in how people see us, interfering with our real self and acting our lives out, just a bit like in “The Truman Show” movie.

A great movie to think about: "The Truman Show"

A great movie to think about: “The Truman Show”

And the worst part of it is that sometimes, specially with Twitter, I get the impression that we are not fully present and enjoying what we are physically doing at the moment. I find that some people just do things to tweet them to the world, not enjoying them to the fullest: they are thinking “hey, this is so cool that my friends should see this!”. Instead of just enjoying it, they have to give part of their valuable time to texting on the phone what they’re doing, there and then. I really encourage you to read Peggy Orenstein’s article on NY Times about twitting and being.

We should be careful. Balance in what we do is always the key to happiness and well-being. Watch out: maybe something incredible happens in front of us so fast that it’s gone with the blink of an eye…while we’re tweeting any random fact and so we miss it! 😉

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2 Responses to “Analog+digital self= Me?”

  1. Luke Harrison October 4, 2011 at 07:22 #

    Great post! I’ve never heard of fotolog before…it sounds a little creepy. I think we both have opposite opinions on our favourite social platforms. I hate facebook because I find that people post inane stuff on it and it’s harder to ignore it. I love twitter though!

  2. jorgepolvorinos October 6, 2011 at 08:47 #

    To each one its flavour! I don’t LOVE any of them, but each one is also fun in its way… if you are careful with its use, the content you post on each and the privacy settings, of course.

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