Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Stop externalising your life (jshakespeare.com)
322 points by daGrevis on Apr 4, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 152 comments

The funny thing is, most people I know completely agree with this viewpoint.

"Yep, it's tearing the fabric of society apart alright. It's creating a generation of self-interested media whores."

But wait, aren't you one of them? Didn't you just post a picture of those tacos you made last night?

"Yeah man, they were freaking awesome tacos."

Yes, it's a little narcissistic. Yeah, it's disruptive to your actual in-the-moment experiences. You can go overboard. You can also strike a balance, and it just becomes a thing you do sometimes, it's not going to kill you, it's not going to actually change the fabric of society. It's going to make some people annoying. Sort of like punk rock or emo or neon colors or television. Whatever. We'll adapt.

And it might have positive effects too. I made those tacos last night (heh, yeah, it was me, and I totally posted them to Facebook) because I saw my friend cook some mexican last week (posted to facebook) and it looked good. That friend of mine posts pictures of food she makes all the time, and it inspires me to cook more. We discuss the food, I ask for recipes. This isn't just narcissism—it's interaction. To ignore that positive effect just because you notice a subtle and possibly true behavioral shift is short-sighted.

My humble opinion is that most people are self-aware enough to know the externalization of their lives is detrimental on the large scale. They know enough to put down their phones or iPads for the important moments, or even the routine ones. We're all collectively learning how to make our lives work with this level of interconnected communication—it's a new thing.

I completely agree with the sentiment of this article, but I think most people do. I think people are constantly going to be looking for better solutions to this problem. I don't know if Facebook will find that solution, but I've said it before and I'll say it again: the social network that integrates with life and human behavior the best will be the one that overtakes Facebook (if you're going to try, please bring on a social psychologist in your first 10 employees).

The internet will not always be like this. It's immature, it doesn't fit quite right yet. But it will get better. And if it doesn't, it'll just continue to be slightly annoying. Not the end of the world.

One of the reasons that I got into photography is that I found that people around me were doing a piss-poor job of capturing those "important moments" (especially the important moments of my own life). So at many events with friends, my presence with a camera lets other people keep their phones in their pockets to enjoy the experience while I'm the one capturing it.

And it's a really cool experience to upload an album and see everyone instantly forming a web of interaction within a few minutes. Not just liking and commenting, but sometimes 40% of the attendees using your photo(s) as their profile pictures; all identifying themselves through your viewfinder.

Very cool. That's a great example of useful and personal interaction resulting from you being the capturer of content and experiences.

But let's not blow it out of proportion. I think that for as long as cameras have existed and been in the hands of the public (which is what, over 70 years now realistically?) there have been horrible, horrible photographers. The fact that it's easy to see everyone's horrible photography now just makes it all the more evident, but that didn't stop people from losing the moment behind a lens even 50 years ago.

It's pretty clear that imagery has gotten very popular these days, and I think it has become a very important part of our lives because of these huge platforms for broadcasting and sharing them. Good photos aren't just for "professional" personal branding but also for casual identity. A great photo of something boring can often get more attention than a bad photo of something awesome. And events with well-documented professional-looking photos are sometimes seen as far bigger and more impressive events than ones with more people but fewer photos. I was kind of shocked to go to a huge computing conference lately and see people taking official photos who were pretty clearly amateurs in the photography world.

And it's important to mention that you don't need to be a professional photographer to provide value to your social circle or area, you just need to take better photos than the people around you... which might not be as difficult as it sounds. You just need a passion for it.

Many photographers are ticked off by the rise of instagram and mobile phone cameras, but I'm glad that the world is getting interested in photography and seeing the value in good photos. It encourages them to learn how to get better photos out of their devices, whether it's instagram or their new DSLR. To me it means that those important moments will be captured. Even with 20+ people with cameras, everyone can miss a split-second opportunity, unless they are talented and anticipating the moment. Better skills, technology, and distribution channels allow those moments to be captured.

I feel the problem is not the Internet becoming crappier, it's more that our "real" experiences are becoming crappier as instead of living them, (too) many are completely indulged in documenting them.

An example is at a concert or club where more people are holding devices then dancing.

I've started carefully choosing where to take my camera with, as I'll be completely absorbed in taking photographs, later not having "real" memories of the event at all.

A classical xkcd sums up my feelings about this quite nicely: http://xkcd.com/77/

I believe what most people need more of is confessions. When people tell a story about something that deeply affected them it's not just more cathartic and changing, it gets a much more powerful response than other types of posts.

However it's also very very scary when dealing with the most affecting topics. Easier to stick to what you had for dinner today...but I do think society is gradually unraveling the barriers as we present new venues and some anonymity online.

That's an excellent point, and very eloquently written. The article does mention one other phenomenon though, and it's the selective nature of what we share. It has been discussed in the media that Facebook can make some people angry, envious, and depressed (http://ti.me/V9kKkd). By selectively broadcasting our successes to the world, whether it's a promotion at work or awesome tacos, we contribute to a tapestry of a superficial, though entirely false, view of the world. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't want to broadcast my failures any more than you do. It's natural to want to share only the good things.

I'll use myself for example. I'm not particularly prone to sharing or to envy (at least, that's what I thought). I rarely posted anything to Facebook, and when I did, it was science or news related. I even felt violated when others posted pictures of me. However, after about two years worth of Facebook use, mostly lurking, I was surprised to find that I was angry with just about all of my "friends." It seemed they were so much happier than me, wittier, more liked, more photogenic. Their families seemed so perfect, while mine was in smoldering ruins due to tragedy, divorce, and bitter grudges. Their posts got loads of likes and comments, while mine received few or none. They also seemed, well, so dumb: they wrote "are" for "our" and mixed up "they're," "their," "and "there." And they broadcast inane political rants, which, turns out, is a great way to ensure that I'll never want to hang out with them again.

So, in turn, for me at least, I found it had affected me negatively, so I quit using Facebook, and I think it made me much happier and a better friend. I stopped placing expectations upon my life by what I had seen on Facebook. And, most of all, I was shocked to discover how judgmental I had been toward these people. I'm the guy who is often jokingly referred to as the family shrink. Everyone comes to me with problems because I'm patient, I listen, and I don't judge. Well, on Facebook, I was a different person. I was brutal. And that attitude alienated me because I found that I couldn't like people in real life whom I couldn't respect in digital life, whether it be due to my own selfishness or their poor grammar. Perhaps that's why I rarely posted—I felt that I would be judged just as I had judged them, and I feared rejection.

Now when I talk to my friends, they seemed shocked that they have to fill me in on things that have been thoroughly covered on Facebook. But when we do talk, it isn't infused with the expectation to please. I can be honest, and so can they, and there's no need to feel like we're having a loud conversation while sitting at the center table in a crowded restaurant.

I don't think this applies to everyone. I have a friend who doesn't seem the least bit bothered by this. Maybe I'm emotionally weak, or overly sensitive, or more prone to envy than I would like to think. And I don't condemn Facebook entirely. Like you said, I think we're still working this whole thing out, and we have yet to figure out how to positively integrate it into our lives. Even so, I think for some people, no amount of sharing is good, not if we're only sharing the good bits.

I also stopped, about 6 months ago. Since then I have begun writing poetry again, been photographing a lot, sold my first photographs (a few, to different buyers, after many years of photography), travelled, and generally had a good time.

Sure, I miss finding out about some weird events, but generally speaking it means I communicate directly with a subset of friends I care about rather than all-and-sundry.

I was going to write "...and it makes life more meaningful", but that's false. Actually I sometimes scratch my head in wonder .. what are all these people doing?

Yet that feeling has existed since childhood and I have come to recognize it as a part of me, part of what makes me different and strong.

Never give up on your own perspective. Be honest to yourself.

Let the sheep graze and fear not, for others also tread their own path.

Yep, you're a very special snowflake, you've always known you were different, and those sheep are just so ignorant.

If they find value in telling each other about their life experiences but you don't, that's fine. Maybe they enjoy seeing the cool things their friends do, maybe those posts give them great ideas for vacations or what to make for dinner or what kind of dog they want to get.

You can leave the "yeah, what sheep" bullshit for a t-shirt at Hot Topic, where it belongs.

On the other hand, if they find value in telling each other superficial stories about their life experiences, on a purely private platform to boot that spies on their every move, that's kinda fucked up.

I'm really surprised to hear you say that you have ramped up on photography since scaling down on 'externalising.' For myself, hopping on to FB/Flickr is an incredible motivator to take more shots and the only effective (read: feasible) way I know of to test how people react to my work. Either way, good on you!

Cheers. I do upload some images, but generally I collect them for reference (mostly I shoot documentary style subjects). I've found printing / mounting shots and taking them out to see friends a worthwhile way to share that is a good alternative to internet venues. I've noticed that people appreciate and communicate around physical imagery in a different way to digital. Meeting people like this I've given some away, sold others. If someone appreciates an image and you can give them some happiness, then it can be a lot more rewarding than an incremented hit-counter somewhere in the googleplex/FB/flickr.

I noticed that when my real life was more exciting, I used facebook less frequently because I had less time and less need for social validation. When my real life was less exciting, I was on facebook more often. And I noticed that the most active people on facebook were not the same people that I loved and respected most offline.

So I quit. I have been happier without it.

I call, text and email my friends more often. I meditate far more often. I keep a diary. Friends know that I quit and tell me when something is posted that I should know about.

Last night I went to an Eric Clapton concert. My friend repeatedly used her camera, zoomed in and out, took lots of pictures, even curated her photos during the show itself. For much of the evening, it felt like I was there by myself. So I did what any reasonable person would have done: I gave myself over to the music and danced.

Social media does seem to exacerbate it but selective sharing was part of human relationships before social media came along.

I agree, which is why I try to be overtly honest on Facebook and share my life accurately, with a twist of humor.

But it is a very interesting overall trend and could have serious impact on depression or anxiety, especially to people already predisposed to that sort of sensitivity. You're absolutely right, it's something we need to watch out for.

Waiting for the pope: http://i.imgur.com/sNTmp4s.jpg

In my opinion you miss a lot around you when you are constantly staring at the screen of your device.

Two days ago I was sitting at a birthday party. The guy next to me constantly took pictures sending them with Watsapp. I never spoke a word to him because he was busy with his phone all the time.

I'm still not sure what to think about that but I don't think I like the change.

The linked image is comparing the announcement of Bergoglio's election to Wojtyła's funeral procession: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/innovations/post/aaf1067...

I am likely preaching to the choir here, but the following is true. If you don't like this 'externalization' discussed by the author, try this:

Keep your phone off of your body more often.

Going to get a haircut, or go to the mall for an hour? Leave the phone in the car. It is really freeing; you do not realize the subtle impact of that phone/pager/digital watch constantly on the verge of maybe someone messaging you.

Try it out once or twice, especially if it sounds like it'd be tough.

I've started doing this and I can't agree more. It's extremely freeing when you realize that you don't need to be at the beck and call of your phone and email all the time. It also makes those times when your phone runs out of juice much easier to handle.

Wow that waiting for the pope image is incredible, and frightening.

Why frightening? People want to record memories of things that are important to them. Seeing the pope is important to a lot of people.

Would you say the same about all the people at a Pop concert? People derive emotional value from their pictures and videos. Little computers-in-your-pocket just happen to make it easier.

Aside: We don't really know how many of those people in the pope-pic are sharing vs just recording for posterity -- the OP is primarily talking about the former

EDIT: Turns out the pics aren't really comparable. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5492146

Not be demeaning, but there is an alternative way out of that - become a power user.

I frequently continue programming/typing, slip in an audio note to self or search the web via Google Now, while holding a normal conversation. And people with whom I interact got used to this to the level of requiring me to have the data from Wikipedia ready for the continuation of the discourse. :)

This is not a comment on the externalisation, but on how gadgetry, used properly, can add to experience.

> I frequently continue programming/typing, slip in an audio note to self or search the web via Google Now, while holding a normal conversation. And people with whom I interact got used to this to the level of requiring me to have the data from Wikipedia ready for the continuation of the discourse. :)

If you ever do that while talking to me, I'm off. If you don't want to talk, don't, but if I'm genuinely less interesting than Google Now (of all things!) then why don't you just walk away?

I can think of several reasons:

1. It would be insulting to do that.

2. Most people understand that as long as the flow of conversation is maintained, it doesn't really matter what else you're doing. People have conversations while doing other things all the time.

3. Doing something else while conversing with someone doesn't actually mean you're less interesting than that something else. It means that temporarily, there exists reason to do that thing.

4. You have a real relationship with the person with whom you are conversing and both of you understand that taking 10 seconds to look something up on wikipedia will not damage that relationship.

Could you really think of none of those things? If not, why not just signal your luddism directly by saying "If you use google now in my presence, I will hellban you from my life?"

2. The more attention you're giving to other things, the less conversational flow is maintained, period. It doesn't matter how good at multi-tasking you are, anything less than undivided attention is sub-optimal.

3. If there is an actual, explainable reason, the person will understand. If the reason is "I felt like checking email/facebook," you are demonstrating that they are not capturing your attention at that time.

4. Sometimes people aim for a higher level of engagement than "not actively damaging our relationship."

All that said, I'm guilty just like anyone else. I fully agree that taking a few seconds to look up some information can enhance the conversation. Even that breaks the flow though, as the other person is left to stare around or start looking at their phone (assuming a two-person situation), but it's worth it. But, there's a fine line between that action and doing other things that have no relevance to the other person (which is what the GP was talking about - leaving voice memos to self, really?).

> 1. It would be insulting to do that.

It's also insulting to not give a conversation your full attention, for some of us. If I'm trying to talk with you about something (as opposed to talking to you), I'm going to be insulted if you're checking your phone and otherwise broadcasting through body language and your inattention that "what you're saying to me right now is unimportant, and I would rather be doing other things."

Whether you are capable of paying full attention to our conversation while doing other things is immaterial; it's about perception. If I feel like you're not interested in the conversation, I'm just going to shut up and move on.

>> "It's also insulting to not give a conversation your full attention, for some of us."

There are certain mental conditions (including variants of ADHD) wherein it's actually easier for someone to focus if they're doing two things than if they're doing one thing.

It's insulting to those of us with those conditions to be told to stop because you misunderstand us.

It's fine if people are insulted by that behavior. It's fine if people are insulted by people being insulted by that behavior.

There are enough people with varying behavioral preferences or needs that people insulted by that behavior to a significant degree should simply not associate with those people. Opportunity lost? Maybe. Maybe not. They probably aren't going to be the best fit together for whatever they're doing if they clash with that type of amplitude though.

That said, there's a point here that I don't think is made quite often enough, or not explicitly enough:

People do not have the right to not be insulted. If you're insulted by something some people do, I'd guess your course of actions should be:

+ ask them about why they do it

+ express that you find it insulting and why

and then if the context of their actions doesn't remove the insult to you, stop associating with them.

People are sometimes purposefully insulting -- those people are dicks, and you'll accomplish nothing by engaging them.

Some people are accidentally insulting and will gladly try to be aware of your sensibilities while you're around. Some people will have behavior that is part of their identity that is insulting to you for reasons that are pretty alien to them.

Particularly in that last case, people on all sides need to grow the fuck up and realize that being insulted and/or being interpreted as insulting is not nearly as big of a deal as some people make it out to be. Be insulted, be offended, it's fine.

Stop being indignant about it.

Speaking for myself, I can't imagine being insulted by something that when clarified did not have insult as its intent without having some sort of skewed notion of my value as a living thing in relation to other living things.

People hold conversations while doing other tasks all the time. It's perfectly normal to have conversations while driving, doing dishes, eating, reading the newspaper, watching tv, etc. It's not impossible to be interested in a conversation and doing something else.

Maybe I'm just a simple person, but I try to live by kindergarten-level ethics, like "two wrongs don't make a right."

"witholding" means the opposite of what you think it does, it means "preventing" or "holding back" in this context :)

Also I suspect a lot of people, certainly myself, would find this behaviour quite unsociable, and hard to bear during every conversation. The reason I think, is because it is so easy for someone doing this to slip into focussing on social media, or some news article, privately. It's also hard to tell whether you were temporarily ignoring me or just refreshing your memory on something we are talking about.

Edited, thank you. It was just a lapsus. Awkwardly placed one, though. :)

Come to think of it, this kind of behaviour may even act as a solid social filter. After all, if you cannot comprehend that I'm actually being an active part of conversation, notwithstanding my relationship with gadgets around, I'm not sure I want to continue conversing with you in particular.

Someone might call me on basic etiquette, but those are rules that are to be redefined at some point.

> "...if you cannot comprehend that I'm actually being an active part of conversation..."

All the normal methods of figuring out that someone is actively engaged are broken when you introduce devices. Eye contact, physical gestures, mini-facial expressions etc don't work anymore. How is one to tell that you're involved? Random interruptions?

It's perfectly ok for someone to 'drop out' of the flow momentarily to check their little screen but they shouldn't pretend that they're still involved in the actual conversation.

Um, how about content as a normal method?

What about meta content?

Why do you think Google likes meta content? Because that defines context. And content without context is often meaningless.

Imagine a question comes up in conversation like ... "How close did Washington come to being proclaimed the king of the USA?"

Honestly I hate when people end a conversation like this by just looking up the answer on wikipedia. The point of these conversations is quite often NOT actually about getting the right answer - the point is to enjoy the conversation - explore the 'space' around some topic, each participant in the conversation sharing their own perspective & knowledge. The cool thing about conversations like this is all the stuff that comes up which would otherwise be short-circuited by the closed door an "official" answer imposes.

Getting used to something is not the same as liking something.

Edit: When you drop what you are doing to have a conversation with someone you make them feel important. Why not make people feel good?

Your social skills are severely lacking. If you were 13 it might just get you the "it is rude to do that" talk. Otherwise you will find the problem of people interrupting your onanistic self absorption will sort itself out over time.

Google glasses might help fix that by saving everything to your Google account (not that it is a solution, but a different problem)

Reminds me of houses with one antenna for each apt. A strange lack of coordination.

My parents' generation would share holiday snaps or even host slide show evenings for neighbours after traveling somewhere. I think that photo sharing on Facebook etc. is just the modern version of that and as back then, we have people who find this obnoxious, interpreting it as a form of bragging.

I believe it may be a little bit bragging, but is mostly validation-seeking. Many people just seem to be wired in a way that craves a social response to their behaviour. Call it neediness, insecurity, whatever...I think the kindest thing is to simply identify it as a personality trait.

Back in the slide show days I remember being impressed by the stance my parents took which was to sit back and enjoy the holiday snaps as much as they could, because the person showing them was getting something out of that.

Today, I will act interested in a dream a co-worker wants to tell me, not because I am particularly gripped by how they "were flying, but also not, and everyone's face was Graham from accounts", but because it seems to make them happy to have someone listen. If simply clicking a "like" button or posting a thoughtful comment can give someone warm fuzzies (and we know it does) then I'll do it.

Are you sure these slide evenings were as entertaining and impressive as your remember?

I've never heard anything positive about them until your comment, up until now they've always been the subject of boredom jokes.

Spot on. I may have expressed myself unclearly - I am indeed referencing that trope of boring slide evenings, and likening them to the photos which flood our social newsfeeds, showing e.g. Asian Fusion cuisine, rock climbing, and pouting in nightclubs.

The point I'm making is that the boredom joke about the slide evenings was social etiquette and care for other people's feelings preventing intelligent, well-mannered people from being anything but polite. The joke was indeed always on the slide-shower, and it was a bitter-sweet empathic one. I see a modern parallel.

The big advantage of Facebook or Twitter over slide evenings is that it’s much easier to skip a FB update you don’t care about (or even skip all updates from someone) than it was to duck out of a slide evening.

Even better, you may have friends who are not overly selective about what they share, but still share something worthwhile every now and then. With social media, it’s fairly painless to pick our the worthwhile pieces. In a slide evening, I’d have been bored to death.

I can't really refute any of that, it's a good takedown of the analogy. I'm trying to draw parallels which help me understand what's happening and behave appropriately but yes, there are very relevant differences.

I suppose I would say two things, one serious and one silly:

The serious is that I actually do find it harder and harder "to pick out the worthwhile pieces" in social media. I'm adding more people, they're all posting more, and the feeds are getting messier and messier. I don't think slide evenings started as snoreathons, and there must have been a novelty period before it all got tedious. If there was a turning point then I feel we're not far from the equivalent one with our social media photo-flooding.

The silly is that at the slide evening I would be plied with wine and...well, in those days I suppose Twiglets? Right this second, I would gladly sit through an hour or two of Machu Pichu (OK, let's be realistic: Cornwall) in exchange for a comfortable chair and the quaffing of a few glasses ;)

The problem with the messy feeds is quite real for me too. I find that in Facebook, things tend to balance out reasonably well: Most friends don’t write a flood of updates, or particularly long updates, and the feed balancing algorithm seems to present me with a reasonable mix of updates.

I’m far less active in Twitter, where I seem to easily get overwhelmed by a flood of small updates, or G+, which seems to attract highly prolific writers.

I started with Usenet and email back in the late 80s. When the Internet boom hit ten years later and everyone's mom had an email account, I spent years agonizing over people who were unable to quote a forwarded reply properly or who couldn't grasp the fact that Bill Gates wasn't going to be paying anyone for the amount of email sent around.

But you know what? Most of those people have learned a decent bit of netiquette. They even know the word "netiquette". They got over the newness of email and the web.

I'm seeing people getting over the extreme narcissism as well. They've tweeted going to the bathroom enough so where it's no longer a thrill. They've posted enough pictures of their meals to facebook or wherever.

I think that most of this behavior is just a phase that will pass.

so the eternal september passes?

"you are not enriching your experiences by sharing them online; you’re detracting from them because all your efforts are focussed on making them look attractive to other people."

Humans are social animals. Everything we do is focused on making ourselves look attractive to other people. People who don't do this are typically not liked by others. The fact that most people do the behaviors the author describes and yet are liked by others seems to indicate that they've succeeded at making themselves look attractive.

Of course, there are plenty of strategies to make yourself look attractive. Some people might dress in mainstream fashion, hoping to pull it off well enough that they can distinguish themselves from all the other people doing it. Others get tattoos and piercings and make themselves unappealing to all but a niche subgroup, within which they have less competition.

I find it hilariously ironic that the author is engaging in the very same behavior (right down to posting the hacker news discussion link in the footer!) as the people they attack. Only humans can do this.

I don't think the author is against sharing in general. It seems to me he is trying to say there is a time and place for sharing, and that is not during the event itself. Perhaps I'm getting the wrong impression from the post. Anyway, this is why I don't find the post as ironic as you do: clearly this post wasn't written while he was visiting Singapore.

Second, I don't necessarily believe the "humans are social animals" argument. I completely agree with you about that fact. But that doesn't mean it is good for us to try and make ourselves look attractive to other people, or that it makes us happy. I tend to think of it more as a drive or an itch. We don't receive happiness in the act of posting things on twitter (modulo the excitement that comes from anticipating for acknowledgement), but we "scratch the itch" when we get recognition. Is that scratching worth being dissociated with what is going around you? I don't really know, maybe it is for different people. In either case, arguing that posting to twitter is fine because "thats what people do" doesn't seem very satisfying to me.

I agree. The author identifies a near universal human behavior and his reaction is to condemn it as tearing apart human society. I don't think so. More like it speaks to something deeply ingrained in our nature, something we evolved because it was beneficial to survival.

It's definitely a deep part of the human psyche. Though I can see space for arguing that social media is too effective.

Our social instincts aren't structured to process detailed updates from thousands of people, nor to broadcast our personal moments to them. I suspect that much of the frustration that people feel is by getting hit with hundreds of updates in the volume that would normally only be shared with very close friends. It comes off as narcissist, because narcissists are the kind of people who can't read the social cues to stop sharing that information--but the social web also lacks the cues that create inhibition.

In fact, because you only get delayed feedback, people lack the social cues that usually get them to stop. And then when the feedback happens, they get a socially-reinforcing signal, separated from the original impulse.

Most "normal" conversations could be cast in this narcissistic light, if you wanted to. People tell each other about the interesting things that happen to them, and not about the mundane, sad, or private things. An awful lot of conversation is about establishing common ground and consists of "Have you seen that film?" "Yeah, I saw it. I liked it, the actor, he was in another film, did you see that?". Back and forth exchanges of, fairly dull information. Of course people get into deeper conversations as they get to know each other, and these are often sparked off by the dull stuff. This happens on Facebook too of course, though often it's privately, and so less visible.

I think the negative reaction from a lot of people is mainly the shock of the new. Like it or not your children will use online networks and sharing as part of their normal social landscape. You can either bemoan them all as unnatural monsters, or realise that these things are inherent to social interaction, and not a problem caused by techcnology.

It's possible you're just thinking too much about it. A lot of people look back on the things they've shared as a way of maintaining a personal photo album. My facebook definitely has a more complete photo history than any one device I own, and it's almost effortless to throw the photos I take up there.

That, and I don't mind seeing the things my friends are doing - it gives me ideas for things I want to do in the future. I used to disdain the "humblebrag" nature of sharing random photos, but I've been getting into a much more "fuck it" attitude recently. It's going okay.

I think that self-inquiry here is the key, finding one's intentions.

I've sometimes found days ruined by the constant need to update everybody on things – on close examination, I can feel the compulsive need to be bigger and better, which is just more ego – and when looking back at those photos, I know I didn't take them as an expression of the moment, I took them as an ego–enhancer. Which didn't work.

On the other hand, I don't think he's saying "never take photos, never share things". If you examine your intentions and find you're not simply using sharing and photos as a bragging method, then power to you.

This, this, a million times this. I recall a professor very fond the phrase "you may wish to examine your motives".

I have found that fantastic advice and hear it most of the time before I click "post", "reply", "submit", etc.

Even here, now. I'm about to post this comment. Do I want karma? Do I need an outlet for the thought? Why am I posting this? Have I achieved everything I wanted by just writing it and actually could just close the tab without hitting reply?

It is not a pleasant feeling.

Yeah, it's a path inwards, which is powerful but I suppose you gotta be careful about – in case "you may wish to examine your motives" is just more ego, mind-games..

Indeed. Any ideas how to solve this one?

The closest I've come is acknowledging there may be a sweet spot somewhere between introspection, expression, and just following good activity habits without thinking or talking too hard about them.

My hunch is that when you've got something solidly in place that "works" (well balanced exercise, diet, career, relationships, family, finances, security, play, hobbies, routine, sleep, etc.) then excessive self-inquiry and validation-seeking don't seem so important any more.

OP here. I definitely agree with you about social media being a good way of maintaining a record of what you've done. I often used to scroll down and down my FB wall for hours looking back at all the pictures and memories from my time at university.

I probably should have played this up more in the post, but my motivation for writing this came from having been on holiday and feeling a huge relief after I decided to stop constantly trying to document everything I was doing. I took just a handful of pictures, wrote about my day each evening on OhLife (great service if you haven't used it) and besides that just enjoyed the moment. When I compared this to what I see when my friends are on holiday ("At the top of the Empire State!!!1 #w00t #thuglyfe") I felt compelled to share my thoughts. To be clear, it's not a holier-than-thou attitude, I just think that people miss out on a lot when they concern themselves more with posting about their experiences than they do with enjoying them.

I just think that people miss out on a lot when they concern themselves more with posting about their experiences than they do with enjoying them.

Maybe they don't. Maybe unlike you and I (and others), most or at least many people are perfectly able to fully enjoy the experience while sharing it.

> It’s not sharing, it’s bragging.

Some would call it "narcissism", which (with an appropriately nuanced meaning) I think is more accurate than "bragging".

I strongly agree with the article. Sharing your experiences with social networking isn't necessarily about needing to get validation from others on your experience in order for the experience to feel complete for you... but for some people, it is. And I have to wonder, the more prevalent social networking becomes, are more and more people going to use it as their image-of-self crutch? And I have to wonder, what does such a society look like after a few decades? It's a bit like Warhol's "15 minutes of fame", except minutes are the wrong unit of measure. Everybody's a 15 milligram celebrity...

Regarding what this looks like in a few decades, I talked elsewhere in the thread about slideshow evenings and it was correctly pointed out these are exclusively thought of as a joke. I believe that's where we're going: we'll mock the narcissistic behaviour out of the culture. This is a good start: http://youtu.be/Nn-dD-QKYN4. Of course, a new thing will come along and it all repeats.

Apologies for the downtime, here's a cached version: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?hl=en&safe=...

I've had a facebook account since 2006. I never post anymore. The only reason I haven't completely deleted it, is because it's a decent way to stay in touch with old acquaintances. I don't tweet. I don't check in anywhere. I don't post to instagram. It's just not an appealing to me. Other than close friends/family, people don't really care what you are doing.

Facebook and other social outlets are a way for people to humbly or not-so-humbly brag about what they are doing, and for those people consuming the content to be envious or critical of it.

I enjoy the fact that I can step away from the computer at any moment and not feel the urge to repeatedly check Twitter, Facebook etc.. and just enjoy life. I don't think I'm missing out on anything by not socially sharing my life on the internet.

Each to their own.

I enjoy seeing what my friends and family are up to, including the minutiae that might not otherwise come up in conversation. In participating, I also have an easy history of the things I've done to look back over. My wife loves TimeHop reminding her, via social updates, what she was doing on the same day a year ago. "Remember this?" Cue much reminiscing.

Further to that, all social sharing serves as developing a personal brand and there are social and commercial advantages to that whether all doing it realise or not.

"Paint a picture of it."

I almost laughed at this bit. Why not allow even more time for contemplative thought by first creating inks from scratch, using ingredients relevant to the original experience and naming each combination of colours to evoke just the right memories?

Many people have heard the phrase "conspicuous consumption", but it's only half of Veblen's analysis. It counterpart, "conspicuous leisure", is arguably at least as important. Typical social proof that you're doing well is not just buying a BMW, but also showing that you didn't have to work hard for it. This is communicated most effectively by advertising the time you can afford to spend on non-economic activities: tourism, cooking, amateur photography etc. There are, of course, many other good reasons to engage in these pastimes. But their importance as a means of social display should not be underestimated.

Yep: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conspicuous_leisure

"such as taking long vacations to exotic places and bringing souvenirs back."

Souvenirs wouldn't be worth nearly as much if you were forced to keep them to yourself.

This is a big part of why I stopped using Twitter. Of course, every tool has its uses and misuses, and Twitter can be an excellent way of discovering new content from favorite producers, but using it myself turned into a popularity contest.

PG writes about popularity contests in Hackers and Painters, and how geeks prefer doing and learning over winning popularity standing. I didn't read H&P until after I had quit Twitter (and largely quit Facebook. Facebook is nothing more now than "email from my mother"). But that resonates well with me. I found myself tracking trending hash tags and trying to come up with witty, pithy tweets that I could also hashtag in kind. I had specific strategies that I would test and track the retweets and replies. It was kind of sick, looking back at it now.

But looking back at my internet life, it wasn't always like that. If you consider the BBS and web forum to be proto-social networks, this type of behavior (in certain communities) was neither broached nor tolerated. A much greater emphasis on discourse existed. In certain online communities, posting "+1" or "first" (or its more recent analogs "this" or "feels") was a fast track to banning. But those networks had something that Facebook and its ilk lack: administrative moderation, either by a staff of people or by community members with elevated privileges.

They were also geared towards the long form of prose, rather than the pithy-saying style. Twitter still has it's 140 character limit; it is considered the culture of Twitter. Facebook for many people functionally had the same limit as they interfaced with it through MMS. I don't know if they still do now, but at one time Facebook had a character limit on status updates and replies; even if those limits were removed now, the vast majority of Facebook's users are trained towards them now, and we see a new article every week talking about Facebook being unable to attract "new, teenage" users. Similarly, Tumblr's easiest levels of contribution are the reblog and photoshares.

When the discourse is so severely limited, then there can't be a discourse. People will revert to what is easiest: posting things that are not meant to engender discourse. People brag, always have, it's natural. But the signal to noise ratio is much worse now because services like Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook make the noise so much easier to create than the signal.

EDIT: sorry, typos, still on my first cup this morning.

>But I think our reasons for sharing experiences on social media are more cynical than that. It’s not sharing, it’s bragging.

No. Stop. You do not speak for every user of social media, or most of them, or even a significant fraction of them.

>We end up with a diminished perception of reality because we’re more concerned about choosing a good Instagram filter for our meal than we are about how it tastes.

Does anyone aside from a minority of people who can be described with various adjectives, but I'll settle on "attention whore", actually work this way? I don't. Nobody I know does. Do you?

Balance in all things. This is just another blasted "social media is teh evulz" post dressed in flowery language.

For what it's worth, this is why I think Glass and its descendants will be the next big thing. You remove the friction from sharing, you remove 98% of the author's complaints (and the complaints of those "social media blaarrrgh" types). When sharing becomes as simple as just looking at something and saying a magic word, or nodding your head, or touching your temple, you don't have to throw brain cycles at operating some kind of device, it just happens naturally.

I enjoy externalizing :-)

My wife and I travel a lot and I like to write a daily diary that I send to family (and friends who "opt-in"). I often include a few pictures. There is often some down time travelling, and journaling experiences makes a long wait for transportation, etc. enjoyable. I enjoy reading my own travel logs years later.

I live in the mountains (Sedona in Central Arizona) and when I go on really long hikes (I am leaving on a 6 hour hike in 45 minutes :-) I always send a picture to my Dad and some remote friends who occasionally travel to Sedona to hike with me.

Personally, I agree. I know there are differing opinions but I don't care most of the time what my friends & family are up to in real-time. They'll tell me when I see them. I like to write about things I have done if I have some opinion of it, or if I'm proud of an achievement, but that's about it. People don't necessarily need to know what I'm doing right now if it's nothing particularly special or new.

Conversely, I don't need to necessarily need to know what they are doing all the time. But if they feel the need to share, fine. I just hope that if they read this post, by you, they might critically think about their current behaviour.

>What were people actually saying by Tweeting about their visit?

They are telling others about their life experiences. It's called communication, we do it in real life all the time, why can't we do it online? If somebody told you what they did on the weekend, do you respond "you are fulfilling your obligation to have to share"?

The crux of the argument seems to be the time and place of sharing. Before the advent of social media, sharing used to happen after the event. Now, it happens during it. The author doesn't seem like he is against sharing in general, just the sharing that interferes with the sensory experience of the event itself.

Sounds like the author has had some sort of compulsion/addiction to posting pictures on the internet.

Not everyone does that.

All the more reason to hurry up with those ocular implants! Never miss the stream while you record it. ;)

But seriously, the genie is out of the bottle. There's no going back to the pre-sharing days as we've come to notice our memories are fleeting... as are our lives. In essence we're the culmination of our expriences and these days, we're (I think) subconsciously leaving evidence of our existence, just in case everything else of our proof of impact on the world is lost.

I'm not happy that we've completely substituted interraction with persons in favor of the interface, but I don't think leaving behind the sharing culture altogether is the solution. We'll (over)share, as long as the technology exists. I think the only solution is to make it as unobtrusive as possible so as to not miss input of the real world with our own organic senses.

In a strange way, I can see this as the true appeal of Steve Mann's EyeTap or Google Glass. Absorb your surroundings with your synapses and NAND. What your synapses will miss, the NAND will store for decades or more. All the while augmenting your sensory reach.

My thoughts exactly. Let's be honest, most people share stuff on FB/Twitter to show off, they project an idealised picture of their life - photos from parties, trips, concerts and so on with one clear message: "Look at my awesome life!". Who cares? Why is it so important to know everything about everyone, all the time? Why share every bit of your life with hundreds of people you barely know?

I agree with your viewpoint totally - and others may disagree as they have a vested interest in encouraging consumers to share - but it is an trend that is becoming increasingly prevalent. I think your main point is that we are sliding towards the sharing-for-sharing's-sake end of the sharing spectrum rather quickly and perhaps without realising it, and that its something to be conscious of.

A large part of sharing because people want to live vicariously through other people. And sharers know this, and so they help out. That is exactly what it was like for my Europe trip last year - it was a big enough deal to me personally that I wanted to record it as one of the highlights of my life, and I had friends and family that I knew were excited about the trip. So I shared with lots of detail, and they loved it.

I think the sentiment in the article is more one of the side effects when the system gets out of whack magnitude-wise in one direction or another. Perhaps you're (not the poster; anyone) sharing habitually with no intent behind it, or perhaps you're resentful of your friends, or perhaps you haven't challenged yourself recently to go out and do something new or formative.

But when used to share an actual highlight, with people that care about you and are apt to be happy about your highlights, it's a transaction that benefits both sides.

The Internet is only 20 years young. In Internet years that is ancient but technology and the way people use it always goes through progressions.

Early on, the Internet was largely about research and news. Then, people realized they could shop online: E-Commerce, dotcom bubble. Step 3, everyone could have their own little domain, Blogs and personal websites. Then, the Internet became the place to be entertained, video, music, games. Now, we can be social and share everything with our network of "friends".

Obviously this is just one guy's synopsis and it's probably out of order in some ways. There has also been lots of overlap during the progression.

It's not that strange that we are where we are. When I was a bit younger many people I knew had personal websites. Then they migrated to blogs. Now they're on facebook and twitter. They'll move on to something else.

The social aspects of the Internet will morph into something else. The fundamentals will stay but the methods and purposes will change.

> The Internet is only 20 years young

Are you confusing "the web" with The Internet?

I probably am. Thanks for clarifying. I'm sure it tripped up several people.

BTW, were you using either the Internet or the web before the early 90's? When have you used the Internet without using the web? Are you this hard to communicate with in real life?

> BTW, were you using either the Internet or the web before the early 90's?

You mean "the 80's" then. No I was working on mainframes. Much more fun.

> When have you used the Internet without using the web?

Many many times. Usenet, FTP, telnet, bulletin boards etc.

> Are you this hard to communicate with in real life?

Given that my day job is being a System Engineer for a search company, one has to be pedantic to a certain degree - but you appear to be leveling a claim of my being difficult to communicate with due to a minor error on your part that was corrected by someone that can differentiate between the two. But to answer your question: No, I can be far far worse, if necessary :p

Just for the record (pun totally intended): I fucking hate it when at a party/rave/concert everybody and their damned mother is standing around recording everything. Especially on the dancefloor. Especially especially if they then are all like "Dude, could you stop moving around, I'm trying to record this!1!!".

reminds me of the buddhist quote:

"If while we are washing dishes, we think only of the cup of tea that awaits us, thus hurrying to get the dishes out of the way as they were a nuisance, then we are not 'washing the dishes to wash to wash the dishes.' What's more we are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes....If we can't washes the dishes, chances are we won't be able to drink our tea either."

i remember going to a gdc after party where they had a burlesque show for entertainment. 75% of the crowd had their phones out recording the event while watching the dancers through their phones. so sad.

there is little more fulfilling than enjoying the present moment. its fun looking into the past and sharing but it comes nowhere near living in the now. weather that is during the act of eating or washing the dishes...

This reminds me of the College Humor parody of "Photograph" by Nickleback called "Look At This Instagram" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nn-dD-QKYN4).

I've seen many comments in this thread from people who believe this is a passing trend, however, I have a hard time believing that. I think that this is going to continue because the oversharing and posting everything is a way for those with low self esteem to make themselves feel better. It's a way for those who feel like they have no control to have some control over what their perceived life is like.

I find myself being as guilty as any on this front - constantly thinking that my 'friends' (all ~200 or whatever of them in that list) actually care and need to know that I am eating/drinking/viewing/visiting/riding/doing/etc whatever it is that I am doing...

While I am ashamed to admit, I can recall more than one such instance where I am among friends having a drink, and I decide to check in - then I realize that I have to tag people, then I have to search for location because it didn't correctly pull up, then I have to re-do it all because I accidentally backed all of the way out of the initial post... Then I have to do it all over again to G+.. "Oh, what was that, friend? I wasn't listening completely as I was carrying out the super important ritual of sharing with the world that we are sharing this tasty beverage in this dark downtown pub instead of paying attention to our ongoing conversation about the next great thing in social media and connectivity..."

Is it the end of the world? No. Is it hurting my relationships - so far, I see no indication of that... Is it perhaps a bit annoying to have to repeat yourself a couple of times because you couldn't be heard over the glow of cellphone screens as they were being used to check in on FB? Yeah, just a little bit - but we'll live...

But really... Don't worry... Glass is here, kicking our assimilation into the next higher plane of online existence.. With some future revision, we will be controlling it all via eye movement and facial gesture - and so you will then be relieved, instead of annoyed, to learn that your friend wasn't having a seizure or a severe facial spasm, but instead were just tagging you in a post on Facebook and G+ simultaneously...

The reality is - we wouldn't do it if it weren't fun or providing us something that we (the majority of the collective) were looking for... It scratches an itch - albeit a narcissistic one at times... While I agree with points here and found the post to be an entertaining read, it's not (yet - or likely ever) that big of a deal... It now seems pretty apparent, with the success of MySpace, Facebook, G+ and other such social sites, that we all like it - the person posting about their drink at the pub and the person liking the check-in from their couch... That's the beauty, I guess - it's pretty much an opt-in activity - you either have an account and participate or you don't...

Externalizing isn't just pictures. It's words, as well. They are often more powerful than pictures, when in the right hands. I find it a bit amusing that the OP externalized his trip in an article about how people shouldn't externalize--describing not just where he was (Singapore!), but how long he was there (a whole month!), the food (exotic!), sights (there were so many!), and his reasoning, as well (to impress!).

While I agree with some of the intent and observations he made, it carries a strong tone of I just realized I was doing this thing, don't really like the reasons I think I had for doing it, and am going to make excessively broad generalizations about everyone else who does what I perceive to be similar.

The article would have been better to leave out that last bit. You see, there are potentially as many reasons for people [over]sharing as there are people sharing. Since when does taking a picture of/with/in a piece of art require 'bringing a unique interpretation of the artwork to the table'? Who is the author to determine if the pic-taker is sharing a 'hidden gem with their followers'? If I'd visited the Barbican and snapped a pic of the Rain Room to share, it'd be because I thought it was an awesome experience that, while perhaps not hidden to locals, would most certainly be unknown amongst the people I'd share the photos or video with. I enjoy experiencing art, as do many of the people I know. They'd enjoy experiencing the art through a photograph or video.

I have very fond memories of watching hours of videos whenever my grandparents returned from a trip somewhere in the world. I specifically recall being amazed by VHS footage of the pyramids when they returned from Egypt. I was about 10 years old. Those grainy videos changed my life. My way of thinking was forever altered. The world was no longer what I saw around me in the city and desert surrounding Los Angeles. It was huge, incredible, majestic, awe-inspiring--and, more importantly, it was there for ME to experience, investigate, enjoy, and re-share it with others. I began diving into studying the histories, cultures, and languages of parts of the world that captured my interest. I rejected the idea that was so prevalent in my family that America was this awesome Promised Land, better than everyone else in the world, because the US didn't have the incredible things I saw in those home videos and my weekly trips to the library on Saturdays--the Pyramids, Great Wall of China, Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, Taj Mahal, castles, 600-old libraries, multi-thousand-year-old cities ... you get the picture.

I'm so glad my grandparents externalized parts of their life. I'm also really happy when friends do it, because it reminds me of just how much is still out there to experience.

Do I care about last night's tacos? Nah. But I can digest those on the way to seeing the pictures of your trip to Budapest.

> I find it a bit amusing that the OP externalized his trip in an article about how people shouldn't externalize

It's even more meta than that since OP includes "Discussion over at Hacker News" link at the bottom, anticipating people discussing OP discussing OP's trip.

Part of this argument is old and recycled. I first heard it about people who would obsess about taking pictures of trips and boring everyone with slide shows when they got back, then about fathers who had a video camera at the ready on every vacation.

"Externalizing isn't just pictures. It's words, as well."

Indeed. In her memoir Images and Shadows, Iris Origo quotes Virginia Woolf on a visit to Thomas Hardy, in which (as I recall--I don't have the book here) Woolf was constantly aware of how she was going to be writing it up.

I completely agree that the network can act as a useful tool for exploration. In the same way that Pinterest allows people to extend their fashion sense from their wardrobe into a larger and less expensive space (images), images from your network can also let you vicariously explore the world. When I post, I don't feel as though I'm bragging, but rather contributing to a large network of people from many different backgrounds and locations who might not have seen something like this before.

It's interesting, though, because when I was in Europe, I was frankly pissed off that all these international travellers on my tour were sharing photos exactly as they happened, whereas I chose to leave my phone at home. To me it feels very strange to post experiences as they happen when you're so far away, as though it loses its charm and uniqueness.

Well, the author was making a point about the way people interact with their omnipresent tweetdeck/camera device.

He was painting a picture for the sake of making a point, not for the sake of "hey, I'm in Singapore".

> He was painting a picture ...

Exactly. Stop there. The irony is that he did exactly what he was complaining about, but in words, not pictures. He apparently missed the part where that is externalizing his life. I'm more careful than you to eschew attributing intentionality, but the effect is the same--he externalized his life via a blog post that decried externalizing one's life.

It's all about words. If he'd been more mindful, he could have written everything in that paragraph with less-externalizing language--no mention of where he was, what he did, how long he was there, etc. But it's much more difficult to hit the point of non-externalizing language.

We're always externalizing our lives, irregardless of medium.

More importantly, though, the OP's point is just weak. He commits fundamental attribution errors and compounds it with fallacious mind projections. He sees errant personality traits in [over]sharers where context and circumstance might hold greater explanatory power. He assesses his own behavior and intentions, then projects that onto the Reality of Others, as if he's grasped the fundamental psychological happenings of all the millions of people who [over]share. It's useless nonsense. He ignores the complexities inherent to human terminal and instrumental values, as if he possesses the acumen to tease them out in a few hundred words. Values are complex, nuanced objects. He sweeps everything about sharing one's experiences into a simplistic and negative You're externalizing your life. Stop it!

Externalizing one's life is not an intrinsic negative. Sure, there's a lot of stuff people share that I might find useless. But that's a measure of my value judgments, not theirs.

Ironically, "painting a picture" is exactly what the author said you should do:

"Write about it in more than 140 characters; on paper even. Paint a picture of it. Talk about it face to face with your friends. Talk about how it made you feel"

It doesn't seem the author is complaining about all externalization, just the externalization that takes place during experiences, like posting pictures of yourself eating a meal while eating said meal. I just don't see the irony you mention, as he is doing exactly what he said people should be doing.

As for the rest of your comment...I'm inclined to agree that the author's post is an overgeneralized complaint, perhaps even with fundamental logical flaws. However, hidden in the haphazard argument there seems to be a tinge of truth regarding over-sharers.

> It doesn't seem the author is complaining about all externalization, just the externalization...

... he personally does not like.

That's where the irony lies. He is saying "don't externalize in this [personally valued as annoying] way; do it like this [personally valued as less annoying] way."

He's suggesting people stop externalizing by way of another mode of externalizing. It's still externalizing. The implied meaning of his article is not congruent with the literal meaning of his suggestion for improvement.

[edit: clarity]

Great post. Reminds me of Neil Postman's Technopoly - written just before the advent of the internet. The main premise there was that we live in an age of unprecedented amounts of information, yet our ability to parse that information and filter out the unimportant is diminishing, if anything.

Much as I love the man, I'm glad for Mr. Postman's sake that he has passed away and been spared seeing his most dismal prognostications realized in all their mindless glory.

>The key thing to remember is that you are not enriching your experiences by sharing them online; you’re detracting from them because all your efforts are focussed on making them look attractive to other people. Your experience of something, even if similar to the experience of many others, is unique and cannot be reproduced within the constraints of social media. So internalise that experience instead. Think about it. Go home and think about it some more. Write about it in more than 140 characters; on paper even. Paint a picture of it. Talk about it face to face with your friends. Talk about how it made you feel.

I think this is precisely backwards. Social media sharing enhances my experience rather than detracting from it, precisely because it is so artless: I'm not thinking about how to describe where I am or what it looks like, I just check in or send a photo. If I were to follow the advice in the second part of this paragraph, I'd be doing exactly what the first half warns me against: focussing my efforts on how things look to other people.

>> "Social media sharing enhances my experience rather than detracting from it, precisely because it is so artless: I'm not thinking about how to describe where I am or what it looks like, I just check in or send a photo."

How does checking in somewhere or posting a photo of something to your followers enhance your experience of something?

Because I enjoy doing it.

You've explained why you like posting/updating/etc., but you haven't explained how it enhances your experience of whatever you're doing at that moment (i.e. the subject of the posts/updates).

By way of example, how does taking a picture of your meal and sending it out on social media enhance the meal for you?

"It’s not real life, of course, because people overwhelmingly post about the good things whereas all the crappy, dull or deep stuff doesn’t get mentioned."

I think social media is what you make of it and who you stack your social media accounts with. If you stack them with people who only post how awesome they are, this is what you will get out of it.

My Twitter feed is a rollercoaster. I have people who share their awesome moments and their horrible moments and their thoughts and hopes and dreams and their humour. If you "follow" just anyone just because you want to be popular and have a lot of followers, you ARE going to get a lot of junk and no real content. Rather than "stopping our externalizing" I think that we, as the viewers of our social media feeds, need to take responsibility for the kind of people we choose to have in our feed.

Honestly, trying to tell people what to or not to post is like censorship. Stop burning the books and instead make a choice not to read them. Fill your life with content that makes you happy.

Sharing is caring (to a certain degree), if your sharing is not just pure bragging, the I can see only positives on it. E.g. somebody sharing on how good the food is in a new restaurant is genuinely happy about the experience and wants his friends to check out this restaurant too, as they might like it as well. This is good motivation and basic human nature . Vs somebody that goes in a very expensive restaurant (that everybody knows about) and shares just to brag about it/ show their social status (this might just elicit envy from their friends, another basic human emotion). Delivery style and context are very important in this case.

On the other hand I have friends/ acquaintences that don't share at all and just keep it to themselves. To me this is selfish and just as bad as over sharing. A good friend will share both good and bad news. People that share over selectively, or dont share at all are on the selfish side.

My social commentary - there is immense peer pressure to do this - especially in the younger communities. A long time ago - we got the 'Jones family update' holiday letter once a year - a push update - now we can get fragments of it in real time...

“You could have this really amazing night, but if you didn’t get a picture, it’s like it didn’t happen,” said Ms. Parr, 22, a senior at Gettysburg, whose friends often order designer outfits from the Rent the Runway Web site because incessant documenting makes wearing anything more than twice taboo. “It’s crazy how much pictures consume our lives. Everyone knows how to pose and how to hold your arm and which way is most flattering, and everyone wants the picture taken with their phone.”


I like the effect this has on me. I look at Facebook at the weekend and see some friends were up hours before me to run up a mountain, others have gone into London for the day to see an exhibition then head to a restaurant. I stayed up late the night before watching (and of course, sharing) YouTube videos so missed the best part of the day, but now I see that I'm failing to live life. As a result I up my game and rather than have breakfast and lounge about I head out looking for interesting things to do to justify myself. . . then on Monday when I get a coffee and someone asks "What did you do this weekend" I'm saved of the infamous answer "Just chilled really", which is post Facebook world speak for "Nothing". Now to wait for the up votes and ensuing rush of self-esteem. . . Anyone? ;)

TL;DR Subconsciously believing everyone's better than you forces you to up your game and thus get more out of life.

I find that for a lot of people documentation has replaced experience. I watched a performance a week or two ago, and a guy in front of me took photos and videos for 20 minutes straight then abruptly got distracted and walked away. It struck me as precisely the symptom of working to externalize your life so much that you forget to actually experience it.

Thinking in terms of narcissism, distraction, oversharing, externalization, etc, I've realized how scary and absurd the Google Glass marketing is. It's been marketed as something that will let us come back to reality and genuine interpersonal relationships, when it's only going to indulge our tendency towards sharing and distraction even more. I think that in order to market Google Glass effectively they had to make the absurd claim that even easier access to the internet will cure our anxious attachment to it.

I prefer my life now than it was before when internet wearing diapers. Before, I had to eat all the drama from everyone I had to meet in any circunstancie, many times, I had to be a listener to really idiots dilemmas or silly issues i really didn't give a shit just because often you can not choose when and whom to talk, well, actually, yes, but that also carries a price: be repudiated because you had decided not to tolerate such interactions.

The offline world can give many joys but also do not forget that it can bring many dilemmas too. And in my experience has shown me that dilemmas abound more rather than the joys.

I interact with people more now than before and this does not keep me from choosing what conversations I get into the offline world. But I preffer this much because people is on their stuff and not bothering each other without reasons.

I also feel its the modern day version of 'keeping up with the jones's'. I have my startup, which I've been working on for the past few years. After being inundated with images of new babies, houses, cars etc, its hard to resist trying to show my life in a better light.

Yeah, kill the growth model for most "social" companies. The amount of noise is really counter-productive. I know one can just turn it off, but I don't want to live in society where most don't turn it off and focus on presenting life to others instead on life itself.

Have we ever lived in any other society? As far as I'm concerned, we just have better presentation tools.

"It’s not sharing, it’s bragging..."

Turns out social media is freaking way tricky. If you share bad things, well, people don't want to hear it. If you share happy news, well, people think your life is perfect. So its damned if you do, damned if you don't.

My concern is that instead of young adults being the imperfect people that they are -- forming cliques, being sexist or ageist, and so on -- we're teaching kids how to "fake" having the right attitudes. So yeah, you can be as misogynistic as you want, just don't let it show up on social media.

So the real harm social media does is to ourselves: it teaches us fake friendships,fake conversations, and fake storytelling. This will have lifelong negative consequences for many.

When I attempt to curate the capturing of an experience, it is normally for myself later in life to be able to look back on the event. I may share my experiences on occasion, but my efforts in capturing these things are rarely for the sake of others.

>>> The key thing to remember is that you are not enriching your experiences by sharing them online; you’re detracting from them because all your efforts are focussed on making them look attractive to other people. >>> I wouldn't agree with that fully, because I (and I assume many others) often share stuff because I think it's cool and others might like to check it out. Think of the number of time you have discovered neat stuff because someone shared it.

So if you are sharing compulsively and simply in order to make yourself seem awesome, that's messed up - but it is also the cost of content discovery on an ever expanding internet.

Look at it from the other perspective: I really like to check Facebook or Twitter and see what my friends and family are doing, what they're enjoying, what they are thinking. By sharing these things, they are also making me happier.

I like Facebook. Not the company, but the service they created. I get to be myself with my friends, but just remotely. I can name about 20 people who were just acquaintances in "real life" but became good buddies via Facebook. A lot of them are people with whom I have heated online arguments over politics, religion, and economics. But we respect each other for it.

There are definitely people who don't fit into my Facebook paradigm. Those people have their posts demoted. After a small amount of effort configuring my feed, I now get content I mostly actually enjoy from people I mostly actually want to hear from. It's quite nice!

Ricky Van Veen (College Humor, Vimeo) has an interesting talk about this whole online sharing thing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=-...

I tend to agree with him, that we share and document the parts of our lives that matter to us, to help create our identity. It's the same way people drive a car that fits or fill their closets with their style of clothing. It's an outward expression of who we believe we are, and how we view the world.

Look at how teenagers use tumblr. They curate content to exactly match themselves.

I think the point the author makes goes beyond the shallowness of 'he's posting on social media, what hypocrisy, look at his externalization!' I think the take away is that by our society's knee jerk reaction to share a picture or write a short micro-blerb describing an event as it happens, that we actually degrade the moment for ourselves. We cease to be immersed in our own world completely but end up stepping in halfway into the virtual as we prep that filter, or select careful word choice and tag very particular people to reap the benefits of our narcissism.

I think it is important to make the distinction that the act of externalization or sharing of an experience as some have mentioned should not be completely written off. There is a positive way to externalize our experiences, and it requires more effort and thought. As a general rule of thumb I would argue that experiencing something, reflecting on the experience afterword, and presenting it in a meaningful way meant for longevity is the method most preferred. Sometimes we can't wait until after the moment. Sometimes we need to take a picture now, but the filter and the posting can happen later. The insta-thought that you had that you'll forget may need to be jotted down, on the phone, or in a notepad, but it should not require a complete entrance into social media and draw you away from the moment like it currently does.

The best experiences I had in Facebook was not waiting for every single picture to come out and following someone's life as it happened, it was waiting for when that big album from someone's trip was finally uploaded. There, in one stint you could immerse yourself vicariously in the experience that someone had. When a breakup would happen, instead of reading the vacillating short thoughts and daily experiences of someone going from gleeful to miserable, it was always better IMO to read a reflection that someone had after several months of thought and introspection.

There is a proper way to use social media and share, and as we are, aren't using it to it's full potential. Remember when your papers in school had a minimum word limit? The point was that you had to put in effort when you wrote something. Instead, we get a max of 140 characters and the incentive to share NOW without any real foresight into what we post. That should change, I hope it changes.

I always have this conversation with my girlfriend: - My point, being her experiencing everything through a small lcd screen, no matter how much pixels or which fancy word like retina is using. - Her point, she will be able to keep memories as you can forget something, but the picture would be still.

On one side, I do agree I would like to have pictures and videos from my childhood and my experiences as a teenager. Going further, I would really enjoy to have them from my grandparents. On the other side, we have 2Teras worth of disorganized pictures.

I appreciate where the author is coming from but is this really an issue? I mean, how big a problem is this really?

I would imagine most of us have more important things to do than spend our minutes uploading pictures to social media sites. I guess if you are the attention grabbing kind, it works but within my sphere of colleagues and friends I just don't know anyone that does this. And, yes, I am talking about technical people that understand what Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are.

Maybe I'm a minority but I suspect that probably not.

Like it was so much different when you were staring at the holiday you weren't actually experiencing through the viewfinder of a polaroid camera, back in the day.

Don't blame twitter for this.

At least the Polaroid had the self-limiting factor of physical media & manual processing for each photo taken.

I totally agree with the premise, but (there's always a but) attitude and happiness can be manufactured artificially. So, if sharing on twitter/facebook help me to see where ever I am in the here and now in a more positive light. then the fact that I'm sharing is forcing me to look at it positively which then is in turn making the experience more happy and memorable. Hypothetically speaking. There's some assumptions there.

I still remember how social media revolutionized the tech scene in San Diego, where everyone is spread out and can't mingle that often. Instead of monthly meetups where people kept asking "what have you been doing in the last 4 weeks?" it was "tell more about X you were saying on Twitter." Dialogue became more deep and dynamic.

We can't close Pandora's box. Might as well figure out how to make it work for you.

The author makes a leap here:

>We end up with a diminished perception of reality because we’re more concerned about choosing a good Instagram filter for our meal than we are about how it tastes.

I'd like to see some data on the effects of documentation on an experience. You could track things like perceived immersion in and overall rating of an experience with and without an effort to document it.

The key thing to remember is that you are not enriching your experiences by sharing them online; you’re detracting from them because all your efforts are focussed on making them look attractive to other people.

But that is the point for many people. Most people aren't doing things to personally enrich themselves, they are doing it for others.

My first thought when reading this is 'hyperbole', as in the writer is giving this subject much more weight than it deserves.

My second thought is to recommend unplugging from the most prolific of tweeters, writers, and facebookers. This way you're not hit with the firehose and anything worthwhile will be distilled up to you by someone who is.

Good advice! I tend to unfollow people who tweet publicly more than ten times a day - they're hogging my mental bandwidth. Good thing about today's social networks is you can set your filters accordingly. Excessive bragging will get you hidden in my facebook feed, too.

This really spoke to me. Perfectly articulated why I am not on Facebook.

"This is the curse of our age. We walk around with the tools to capture extensive data about our surroundings"

Less and less people are actually enjoying and engaging good moments in life and instead trying to construct a frame around said moment that will look good on FB/Twitter.

It's narcissistic to imagine that you matter at all. This "age of the internet" is about bootstrapping the entity that is larger than ourselves. It needs enormous amounts of data to even have a chance at understanding the world. Please keep blogging about what you just ate. Take lots of pictures. Log everything.

Interestingly, My most responded-to tweet ever was when I had what what was one of the worst days of my life and I tweeted that sentiment: raw, emotional, unfiltered.

This to me is instructive. People respond to your vulnerability and humility. Nobody has an easy life. It's potent to own up to that.

This is an outrageously superficial analysis of sharing... It's natural to want to share experiences. This is what we do socially every time someone at work asks "how are you?" or when a friend comes over for a beer. Calling it "robotic" is a huge generalization.

Noble Silence: "Before you speak ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence?"



The life stream is really just the small talk of the social network. It's not particularly interesting but it enables the next step. Communities of practice and group action do rely on people syncing up their interests first.

We have a rule. No electronic devices at the dinner table. Ever.

If we're out with friends and our kid is 'bored' then we usually let her play on her tablet. It's the upgrade from crayons and paper when she was young.

We post photos of the places we have been to and comment about things we have done for the same reason our ancestors painted their life in the cave's walls:

If we don't leave our mark, it's as if we didn't existed.

It's called humblebragging. Without the millions of people looking to find unique experiences to "humble brag" about Facebook would be very boring and wouldn't be as successful.

Mind-reading tweets sender is the future. And mind-reading instagram with google glasses.

More seriously, balance is everything. Take photos, then put away your phone/camera, and enjoy the view.

I tried to read the article and I can't, he blames it on the database...

The irony

Could be that everyone just wants to feel special and induce envy in their peers. The desire to be great drives a lot of human interactions.

When I share what I'm doing, sharing with my friends is secondary to sharing with myself in the future when I look it up again.

Reminds me of http://5by5.tv/superhero/8 (audio, 4 minutes)

I cant reach it . Does anyone have a mirror link ?

Just wait, Google Glass is coming soon :)

Stop complaining about opt-in social media.

Hear Hear!

This post is just plain beautiful.

wow, cool blog. Let me share with some friends.

My point requires a back story, but I think its worth it:

A few years ago several teenagers loitered everyday outside my apartment window. Sometimes they skateboarded, other times jumped off a wooden ramp with their bikes, but always did they curse and swear.

Especially one kid, who was the ringleader. Every second word was the f-shot. An angry kid.

So one summer evening, as I was trying to get work done but hearing this caustic stream of vulgarity outside my window, I decided to straighten these punks out. I went on my balcony and yelled at them to chill it with the bad language.

They looked at me as if I was an alien, then continued swearing as soon as I left. Louder this time. They swore even more from then on, especially the ringleader kid. He was angry for a kid.

I was getting angry too. Even with my windows closed I could hear the cursing. I was tempted to threaten them, to really let them "have it", but in a rare moment of sanity realized that I can't force them to do anything. I can only change myself and how I respond to them.

So I changed myself, and instead of getting angry, I decided to help them. I started a dog walking business and hired the ringleader to walk the dogs. That way he'd be busy and earn some spending money.

I gave him business cards with his name on it and bus tickets whenever he needed to get somewhere.

Turns out it was his first job ever. I later found out he had behavior problems and had been expelled from High School.

I befriended him and showed him how to go door-to-door to get clients. He didn't have a dad around so I was probably the closest thing to it.

He stopped swearing after that, and so did his friends. I didn't even ask them to.

Unfortunately his unemployed mother was evicted about a year later, and he with her. I haven't seen or heard from him since.

Be the change you want to see in the world. -Gandhi

Amazing and inspiring story, thanks for sharing.

This is really amazing. Thanks for this.

This has for a long time been my only explanation for twitter. All the hash-tag and "centralized communication is awesome" came later. Twitter started out when blogs were popular and people were doing this "externalizing" on their freshly-setup blogs regardless of how little they had to say. The problem was you still needed a computer to access your blogger-or-whatever account since there were hardly any smartphones and even worse, you actually needed to write a little bit even when you just wanted to show off because most successful blogs back then were not one-liners with a pretty picture because all the "cool" kids were writing long entries so you had to too.

Enter twitter. They were the first ones to offer text-message (SMS) to website publishing for free and internationally. This was huge, even for me who giggles at "web 2.0" to this day. This is why it's 140 chars only and this was the main reason it ever got people's attention in the first place, now "everyone" could easily publish all that vital information about their pet's last bowl movement at any given time of the day from everywhere. And even more importantly, they could do all that showing-off in a much more efficient and easy way since it was only 140 characters so they did not have to bother with coming up with some "lorem ipsum" like entry to accompany their showing off. It was being able to show-off without feeling guilty about not writing a long blog entry. Reaping all that sweet peer-approval with hardly any of the work you needed before. twitter quite literally enabled this conspicuous showing-off and made it en vogue. Since all the "cool" kids were showing how great their lives are, so you had to too, right?

And now for something completely (or slightly) different. One of my real-life friends does that showing-off on fb in an even cheaper way that I haven't seen anyone else doing so far and I just find it even more ridiculous and it has become a pet peeve of mine. Without failure the last 30 to 50 posts he made were pictures of some sort of object of more or less conspicuous consumption and as text he would just write the one or two words describing what is on the picture - and then, to somehow add depth and give it more "meaning" without anything actually being there except showing off and to make it look "smarter", he would add a smiley. That's it. So imagine posts like:

"whiskey :-)"

"enchiladas :-)"

"sunset :-)"

"<insert expensive watch> :-)"

"someotherexpensivecrap :-)"

One of these days, the internet curmudgeon in me is going to call him out on it and properly ridicule him for it!

I think you could summarize the entire story with "Stop trying to capture the moment in your smartphone, and start LIVING IN the moment."

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact