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BLOG: Your Virtual Shadow: Are you so obsessed with social media tech that it's ruining your life?

Darlene Storm | May 3, 2013
"We’re now on the ultimate fool’s errand: sacrificing everything to capture our lives, even if that requires not being fully present in those lives as we are living them.”

Brown: When you stop and think about it, when is the last time you or I went to a restaurant without checking out its Yelp score, getting a solid online recommendation from a friend, or even hearing of it because someone checked in to the location? It is now rare that we experience something without any knowledge. I love new food experiences, particularly when I'm traveling, and some of my best ones happened by chance. Staying with the food theme, there is a certain inherent risk that we had before our current era, like trying a random diner during a roadtrip or hanging out at a small, unknown restaurant somewhere abroad. Now we are more likely to try to look a place up before we give it a shot. I'm not saying those experiences don't exist anymore. I am saying that those experiences are less and less likely as we become more plugged into excessive information.

You mentioned the social aspect of Amazon, regarding ebooks, such as how highlighting passages of books could influence readers before downloading it. Conversely, a reader may self-censor and not highlight something of note "because it could be exposed to Amazon, and therefore the public." You wrote, "Amazon keeps an ongoing list of the most highlighted lines among its Kindle users" and then invited readers to feel free to highlight your book. I realize you want to sell books, but you don't regard such tactics of tracking every word of what you read, and everything that you highlight to be an invasion of privacy?

Brown: Perhaps my sarcasm was missed here. Forget a Kindle book - A TED book itself is perhaps the ultimate sensory overload: Images, videos, and links baked into the reading experience, coupled with social media quicklinks that make it feel like you are reading within a group of millions. I don't discount the irony that I'm discussing the issues with our hyper-connected books inside of a hyper-connected book! It was my tongue-in-cheek way of acknowledging it, not a tactic to sell books. It's like how in the book I discuss co-creating Quote UnQuote, my own app for documenting our lives, and through the development process realized that I was contributing to people over-documenting things! I think it's important for all of us to see where we fit within the bigger picture, even if we don't have an immediate solution to the problem.

Some folks don't record and share much of anything personal online. Others over-share every tiny detail of their day. So what do you personally find to be the best of both worlds, the right balance between no virtual shadow and becoming a "mere passenger with our virtual shadows at the wheel"?


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