Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The friend, the girl, their mates and your brother

Opening sentences containing the word MySpace are a bit of a bore I know, but assuming you’ve made it this far I have a brief but worthwhile observation to share.

Like most observations this one is right there for all to see. And in the eyebrow-raising event of you being someone that reads this blog more than once you’ll note that most of my posts begin with fairly mundane observations. However, I do have a passion for considering the greater implications of simple happenings -- like the impact on a local dry-cleaners when falafels take off in the neighbourhood, for instance.

So, to begin with the ‘unsurprising’ (another observation would be my over-use of the word obvious), it occurred to me recently that joining the MySpace network meant that everyone you know in that sphere would have one, singular ‘you’ to interact with.

What interests me is the impact of this on how you project yourself and how that might affect your personality and your relationships in the real world. I am surely not alone in my multiplicity. To some degree, we all vary our personality depending on whom we’re with. For simple proof just listen to the pitch of a man’s voice change when he answers the phone to his girlfriend.

I am on the chameleon-end of the multiplicity scale. I feed off different versions of my alter ego depending on my company. I can think of at least five different social groups that know a different version of me. None of these Andys are a lie. I just choose not to limit my exposure to the world by making my behaviour immutable.

Back to MySpace.
I finally joined a few weeks ago. The reasons were myriad but rather defensively I can justify to myself that I’m there for research and I wasn’t really longing to be kept in any loops. Ahem.

Creating my profile, however stirred up some of the concerns I’m sharing here. This profile was a distillation of my personality – a SINGULAR distillation! No longer could I vary my humour or flex my tone. This was it. This was me, to anyone and everyone that happened across my page.

The saving grace is that (for the time being) MySpace attracts an incomplete cross-section of people my age. If I were 18 I’d really be in trouble. But there’s plenty of people I still haven’t told I have a profile. It’s not because I’m embarrassed or have something to hide, particularly. I guess it would feel like diving into ice-cold water to have everyone arrive there at once, whereas I’m more of a little-toe-man.

Everyone knows that nervousness at big parties when different social groups are mixed together for the first time. At least in those occasions you personally are only in one part of the room at any given moment. Imagine a banner on the wall with your profile on it and a queue at the door of all your friends-of-friends.

Technology makes the world smaller and social networking is turning it into a well sign-posted bungalow with a novelty-size welcome mat. It’s not my intention to put a damper on it. Like everything else this new social matrix is something I will learn to adapt to, but as new options open up forgive me for keeping an eye on the ones that might be disappearing.

There are endless technologies being developed to exploit the social networking phenomenon. While you decide which of them is for you, why not consider which ‘you’ is for them.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love 'consider which you is for them'. I'm reminded in an indirect sort of way of the idea that an object or concept only becomes real when we choose a collectively agreed name for it - the name gives it a physical platform on which to stand (there's a discussion of this in Michael Frayn's new book The Human Touch, which is great).
In a sense the multitude of social environments on the web is providing platforms that allow us to make hitherto abstract or occasional aspects of our personalities more concrete and sustained. Long tail economics for split personalities anyone?

9:54 am  

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