15 September 2008

SocNets and Sincerity

The Letter from Editor Jason Pontin in the latest edition of MIT's Technology Review is fantastic and prescient: Authenticity in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility: Do Social Technologies Make Us Less Sincere?

Pontin opens by quoting 18th century English poet Edward Young: "Born Originals, how comes it to Pass that we die Copies?"

Pontin goes on to discuss the idea of the constructed persona - i.e., the Person I Am Online versus The Person I Am.
"Social-media Jason Pontin, in short, is a function of my business life. I know that this identity is inauthentic, because there is so much about which I do not post or blog. Do other habitual users of social media, whose social identities are as carefully constructed to attract attention, but who blog and post about everything (and thus feel no alienation), not know that those identities are inauthentic?"
In the end, he comes out in favor of the continuing use of social technologies, even if they do produce less-than-authentic public personas.

But really, how much - other than means of distribution - has changed? Hasn't it always been the case that there's at least some separation between The Public Me and The Private Me? One would hope that a given individual strives for some level of internal consistency, and yes, some of the distinctions between public and private are collapsing, particularly for the generation of digital natives now entering the public sphere as adults. But does anybody, anywhere every really let it all hang out? And for that handful of over-exposed media "celebrities" and reality-show contestants who seem to lack any sense of boundaries, don't we mostly feel pity mixed with a sick fascination?

Anyway, go read the article and tell me what you think...

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