Keeping it Human Online

I’ve been working to keep things human online since 2010, but it didn’t start out that way. It started with a feeling of novelty, and with experimentation for its own sake.

I joined Twitter in 2009, and the same year started blogging for The Huffington Post. I also published my own WordPress Blog called “500 Words on Thursday.” I picked out my own theme! It was all fresh and new. Strangers commented on obscure blogs like mine. Once, when I was defending Oprah for introducing alternative medicine on her show, I was shocked to receive nearly 100 comments on my Huffington Post blog, many of them pretty nasty. It was scary back then to post a personal thought on Twitter because it felt so shockingly public.

Things are sleeker now, more automated, less human.

Twitter is a mobius strip of personal materials shared in a public forum, so you wonder what can be called personal anymore. Life’s events are so often posted on Facebook that their intimacy is drained away. The boundaries are crumbling, that’s old; what’s new is the stage we are in. It’s a time to game the personal, exploit nearly everything. Marketing blogs are filled with ideas about how to automate posting or work the system so that you get more followers and friends. There is a swarm of advice-givers recommending that you always title your blog with a question, that a number in your title is good, that a blog title should always have eight words – that’s the optimum number for optimum engagement. (I am not making this shit up.) Facebook posts always must end with a call to action, and Twitter posts are most effective with a link in the middle of the post, not at the end.

Sheesh.

I’m thankful that the internet still has its human side.

It’s amazing to me to read on Twitter how Anil Dash feels about Prince’s death, how the Australian cycling team I follow on Instagram is doing, how podcasting is like the best of talk radio, minus the right wing irrationality and intrusive commercials throughout the show.

At work, I network all day, building connections for businesses online. I’ve been doing this for Red Cup Agency since 2010. The connection has to be warm because the internet can be cold, but like-minded people are always gathering around their metaphorical campfires to talk. Network-building has become a passion with me, more  than pushing pixels on a screen; the Web really is a web.

The external connections one can string together on that web amaze me. In a new, relatively unexplored way, I can feel “close” to people I’ve never met because I talk to them every day online, view their images or read their stuff. I have old, close friends and we mostly use the phone; but we rarely talk. I don’t feel as “close” to them as I do my online friends. They’ve changed places.

The internal connections to be woven on the web also amaze me. Journal apps like Day One can elevate one’s written journal to a crazy-interesting weave of life-logging, with text, photos, the music track you’re playing, the number of steps you took that day, whether you rode your bike or not, the weather at the time of writing, and location of your entry. Journals can be sorted by tag, so I track back and evaluate the good days, the good coffee days, sleep cycles, the days I meditated. Writing is good, and writing with photographic annotation is even better, at least in a journal. The music streaming platform Tidal is allowing me to revisit all the Miles Davis I remember and the John Coltrane albums that were stolen out of my car in 2005. My memory storage is increasing, becoming richer and deeper, and I’m not talking about a machine, I’m talking about conscious drive space, a state more complex and fleeting, yet capable of being tagged, retrieved at will, and deployed to friends and strangers. But is there is difference between them anymore?



Also published on Medium.