I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about the way in which kids and bloggers are increasingly documenting their entire lives online. The premise is that narcissism was on the rise amongst kids and the lines between public and private lives are evaporating. People are not just documenting and sharing their digital life, they are documenting everything from childbirth to closet cleanings to family funerals.
I’ve been making the point for a while that the reason why people post entries on blogs, create MySpace pages, and generally share personal information with the world online had very little to do with money and mostly to do with a desire for fame. This was the reason why I felt that Revver’s business has suffered while YouTube’s has exploded. My thoughts have evolved a little recently.
I was at a Stanford conference on Wednesday in which Jay Adelson from Digg was on a panel and he said something that made me think a little deeper about my fame belief. I’m paraphrasing, but basically what he said was that the act of conveying information to others is in itself a very pleasant experience for most people. Just the simple act of telling someone else what I know actually feels good. Sharing gives you a buzz, especially when that sharing is acknowledged directly.
This got me to thinking that fame is a little bit of a simplification of this. It plays into the WSJ idea that this is about narcissism. But narcissism is all about excessive self-infatuation and vanity. But I’m not so sure that’s a fair characterization anymore. Many do these things for fame and self-aggrandizement, but I think the reason for most share their lives is that the simple act of sharing information for most humans is a very pleasant activity.
I think this is an evolutional trait of human beings. We are genetically programmed to enjoy the process of passing along experience and information to others. The web has just enabled this to become a much larger part of many people’s lives. It’s magnified the pleasure of sharing because you can share with so many people at the same time. It’s more subtle and less sinister than fame, but actually more powerful.
It gives me great hope for the future of our emerging civilization.