As I’ve been preening my blog here I notice it reflects a greater pattern I’ve observed on social networks. The Internet just rarely gets the whole story. Through omission, laziness, inconsistency, or distraction it is impossible for the Internet to present a complete picture. We love to think that all these logs and data record everything, but all too often our assessments come up short. How often have you met someone in person who is completely different from who you expected online? I can also think of several business situations where companies have panicked from changes in analytics reports that turned out to be inconsistencies in data sources.
There was a point that I was striving for transparency with my blog and social networking and (perhaps) over-shared my personal life at times. I was trying to use it as a tool to not only journal my life experiences, but to challenge my authenticity by having it all be public. Looking back I left out very significant moments, that not only would distort a reader’s perception of me, but distorted my own personal narrative in my head.
If you’ve ever been responsible for photography or video at a family party or event, you know how difficult it is to capture the significant moments. You want to document things as they are, perhaps with a little presentation and theatricality to communicate the mood, but you also don’t want to barge in and interfere with nature taking its course. I think trying to document our lives online is very similar. Even with our apps looking over our shoulder and nudging us to take pictures, videos, and quick thoughts and share them, it really take a lot of consciousness, dedication, and courage to just put it all out there.
I think I’d love it if we lived in a culture where we didn’t feel the need to second guess what we share, but I think if you do the math, that only works if everyone is equally transparent. Perhaps we will live in a future where we have traded privacy for honesty. I could see that as a beneficial social strategy, but only if no single entity controls the record.