The New York Times this week ran an interesting article on the emergence of twittering and microblogging, (using up to 140 letters to describe what you are currently doing/thinking and posting it on Facebook and the web). Several interesting points and references are made:.
- Social Scientists term this available information as ‘ambient awareness’ like being physically near someone and picking up on his mood through the little things they do.
- That this may allow us to “sense the rhythms of our friends’ lives in a way we never had before”
- “Follow a friends Facebook feed and it begins to feel like a short story; follow it for a month, and it’s a novel.”
- Robert Dunbars theory that our maximum number of social connections is about 150 on average.
- So called weak links can increase this ‘Dunbar’ number as Facebook handles and stores the ‘connections’.
- “It brings back the dynamics of small-town life, where everybody knows your business.”
- Self reflection can be good. “The act of stopping several times a day to observe what you’re feeling or thinking can become, after weeks and weeks, a sort of philosophical act. It’s like the Greek dictum to “know thyself,”
I think this contains a real revelation about the presence of feedback and light constraints on behaviour that may allow a better social basis for society as a whole. Self organising with comments from our ‘friends’ encouraging good thoughts and actions and discouraging the less good.
Overall I am enthused and optimistic. When previously collecting stories from children who were disconnected from the environment and their childhood friends I used to worry about what darkness would emerge in a disconnected world. This concept of ambient awareness gives me great hope, for it contains the essence of a lot of the values of previous times eg “it takes a village to bring up a child” and “the need to be mindful and express yourself in words” which can only be a good thing.
Hat tip to John M Grohal of PsychCentral for original link to this article but he has a much less optimistic take on it all.