Monday, April 02, 2012

Déjà-Vu Conversations

An interesting artifact of the accelerated social transitions that we are now experiencing.

Recently I have noticed a recurring social speed-bump in conversations with people who are dipping into my social media activity streams (and vice versa). The pattern runs something like this. One of us is recounting an anecdote, say about bringing the kids to the zoo last weekend, and the other party interjects with some variant of “oh yes, I saw something about that in your Facebook/Twitter/ Google+/Foursquare updates and was wondering what it was about...”

It is like a mild variant strain of Deja Vu.

The ‘ambient awareness’ identified by social scientists as a key component of our social media experience is there all right, but it is only an incomplete, partial awareness. Aspects of our real world conversations are haunted by indistinct outlines of semi-perceived experiential lacunae loitering around their edges.

My takeaway from this is that a lot of the social media content we are publishing is innately hindered, firstly, by its necessarily condensed syntax, and secondly by the partial nature of its consumption.

Someone accurately compared our social media activity streams to cocktail parties: in both situations when you arrive late you join the conversations at wherever point they are at and you do not backtrack. We read our friend’s status updates as we encounter them. We simply do not have time to go back and recap their complete chronology of all recent posts that we may have missed.

This is an interesting conundrum, as the trivial solution — to post more often and more accurately — would only increase the overall noise-to-signal ratio and might ultimately lead to some kind of a Tragedy Of The Commons zero-sum outcome. In the long term, and at a societal-level, I think that all of our conversational stratagems and conventions may evolve.

Has anyone else started to notice this as well?