Sunday, February 24, 2008


life-stream v.

To make a thorough, continuous digital record of your life in video, sound, pictures and print.

This is one of the new "buzzwords" of our English language as of 2007, so said this NY Times article. First off, what a great word... it sounds lovely and is perfectly descriptive.

I love the history of other people made up in visuals, writing, or other media. Things like wedding slideshows, yearbooks, scrapbooks... anything that can add to a more complete idea of who a person is other than what you can talk to them about face-to-face. Our facebook and myspace pages are now one of the most common and easiest places to contain our lifestreams (at least for my generation, which is basically the first to be presented with such technology).

I have a few thoughts about the growing and ever more present concept of one's lifestream...

In some ways, it is easier than ever to control your image. You can put out anything for anyone else to see, post only the good photos of yourself, "untag" yourself from bad ones, write anything you want on a blog or under your "favorite books" section, make certain conversations with others visible to everyone.

Also, it is easier than ever to get your ideas out, albeit maybe more with more competition since it's also easier for everyone else. I wonder how quickly Leonardo da Vinci would have gained fame if he'd been able to scan his sketches and post them in an album on his facebook and blog about his ideas and art and promote his talent in an online community.

In other ways, it's harder to hide ourselves if we want to. With technology, information clueing others in to who you are is available to almost anyone. Your name can be googled. The time and location of your cell phone calls can be traced. Someone can share anything they hear or make up about you with any and everyone else by a simple mass text message (maybe most of us know a junior higher this has happened to). If you participate in a sprint triathlon everyone can look up your final time in relation to all the other way more in shape people than you. Ha. Anyway, this concept can be scary; our having less privacy, but also, there seems to be more accountability. If you live truthfully, there is nothing to hide. Or if you don't live truthfully, at least be cautious of who can figure that out, unlike the third grade teacher of a friend's daughter, whose public myspace was found by a parent and had many photos of her smoking weed, and evidence of constant partying til the early dawn hours on school nights. Oops.

One more idea... I think in some circles the idea of one's lifestream is getting taken a little too far. As in, the attempt to record and share what you're doing, how you're feeling, who you're talking to, and the song you're listening to at any given moment. Twitter is an example of that... you can sign up and program your page to share those things with anyone else who is connected, and even receive text message updates whenever those peoples' Twitter pages are added to. So if your friend is "heading out to Paseo Nuevo!" or "enjoying their new Alicia Keys album" or "feeling tired after breaking in their new nikes on the city college track " you'll be sure to know. Does this seem like madness to anyone else? Do we want to know what others are doing and feeling at all times and to share the same about seems to arise from a desire to feel affirmed, that what I'm doing is of note to someone, that I'm being thought of... within this family of oversharing also lie the email alerts to anything happening on your facebook, the friend count on myspace, certain uses of webcams, etc. Maybe it's the introvert in me, but I don't like broadcasting constantly what I'm doing and how I'm feeling. And I can't think it's healthy that the generation just below me is growing up seeing that it's normal to want and seek constant acknowledgment and feedback on every single thing that they do.

I'm happy that circumstances have created a need for a word such as lifestream. And I like the opportunity for online sharing and virtual feedback and instant communication gratification as much as any of you, I'd say. But all things in moderation right?


emilykatz said...

Appreciate your thoughts on this subject. I'm with you-- what's the deal with twitter? In the psychology world, issues revolving around technology/lifestream are just hitting the surface; it's pretty crazy. Here's my question.. is there a difference between a blog and facebook?

*corinne said...

Oooh I love the issues bubbling to the surface of psychology in relation to new technology. All very fascinating, some exciting, some a little scary.
Here's one little anecdote, Mark the RD up at Westmont said that participation in Clark dorm-wide events has declined the past year or two. He and the other RDs suspect that its very related to how closely new students are staying connected to home, and therefore less tied in to their new community. In 2000, when I was a freshman, you saw no students secluded alone on their cellphones dotting the campus landscape, like there are constantly now. Facebook and other sites facilitate ease of contact, and they even make it easy to do things like get to know your roommate better before you get to college, but I wonder if they are sometimes hindering new connections for the age group that has grown up using it.

Now, here's my thoughts on the difference between facebook and blogs...Facebook organizes ours and our friends preferences and interests and conversations and photos in a neat straightforward little page. Some use it for actual real-time communication, I and most of my friends use it for casual, playful interaction. I enjoy the albums that make photos easy to share and look back on whenever I like. I look at my facebook page and like the fact that I've defined for now what I like and am reading and what quotes I'm into. Otherwise I don't usually know how to answer questions like that.
For me, a blog is for giving definition to the many abstract thoughts that float through my head, it's for getting better at writing, it's for sharing interesting things that happen to me, it's for starting conversations with friends that we might never get around to otherwise, it's for keeping in touch in a deeper way with long-distance friends and family. I bet most people use it for at least a couple of those reasons as well as others.
The two mediums are in the same family of all this new technology, but have definably different purposes in my mind.