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 …

Read More

500 Words: How much of our lives should go online, and should we try to stop it?

I.

You are living two lives. One is the flesh and blood life you use to enjoy the scent of a spring day. The other is the life you lead on a global level, online. Weirdly, they are merging, becoming equally powerful and equally valid. You can’t smell a spring day online yet, but I’m sure they’re working on it.

II.

With every click, heaps of data are being harvested about you. Your real world location is tracked using your cell phone. Your interests are recorded in pageviews. Your most embarrassing YouTube fetishes are a matter of record at Google, and they are for sale. The reasons for this data Mardi Gras were recently stated well in the New York Times by Stephen Baker.  “Growing legions of marketing consultants are pushing social media as the can’t-miss future. They argue that pitches are more likely to hit home if they come from friends on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Google+.  That’s the new word of mouth, long the gold standard in marketing.” Those people you call friends? Actually, they’re brand evangelists working for free.

III.

But that might not be true. On …

Read More