Something to hide/Nothing to say

Posted in thought by juliobesq on November 20, 2009

Pigeon poster by Isabel Lucena for 'Something to hide'

Do I want to share this?

Self indulgence like petty criticism should be avoided, but stumbling upon the following quote I have decided to commit to print.

Our online tools do a great job at breadth (hundreds of friends, thousands of tweets), but a bad job at depth. We live increasingly superficial lives, reducing our relationships to caricatures and our personalities to billboards, as we speed along at 1,000 miles an hour.
Jonathan Harris

I caught up with a friend recently and the news of a weekend away was not news – my ipod had posted a jog, I had tagged the location. It started me thinking. About social networks.

Rather puzzlingly within the last month a few strangers have requested subscription to my twitter feed. What would someone find in reading the status messages of a stranger?

I discovered that people employ ghost writers to ensure their tweets are prolific and witty enough.

I receive a multitude of social network messages a day, none contain emotional news. I know friends have enjoyed cream today, but not where or with what or who, perhaps that’s knowledge not suitable to share, and yet the cream was spread.

Last week without irony I twittered my last tweet announcing my retirement from the medium. I am not the first. I read a parody about Miley Cyrus quitting, the amusement subsiding and admiration growing, like mourning for celebrities one has never met, why publicise an inner dialogue with an unknown audience. Is there a term for stalking in reverse?

In discussing this, the word ‘curmudgeon’ may have been uttered, but there is a phrase that rationalises this social status silence: signal to noise.

Small steps: I reply via email to any Facebook wall enquiries as to my health and happiness. This is news to be whispered in the ears of friends. Words to be sent with love.

(I hear reports of arrests being made using evidence gleaned, nay snooped, from Facebook, let alone horror stories of employers ‘researching’ candidates in social network sites.)

Something to Hide is a fascinating experiment by a group of Amsterdam based designers who realising that all their communications were privy to snooping, not just tweets and statuses, but texts and emails which leave an electronic residue to be read by those with enough technical savvy or power long into the future. No hiding letters in a box under the bed.

They turned off their mobiles and emails and communicated for a few months via pigeon post. In doing so engaged in an activity far removed from ‘social networking’; the rearing and caring for homing pigeons. One imagines each communique was judged, valued, and honed before being sent wingward over the city.

Serious signal to noise dedication.

And inspirational. I remember eulogising the action of leaving your mobile off for a weekend in a post about the ‘Slow’ movement. These small steps are now bold strides. As a mental experiment I am stopping using a mobile phone unless actually away. As in abroad. Absent from home for longer than a day and night.

After all I am contactable during studio hours by email, land line and instant messenger. I have a house phone. When I venture out I shall sever the umbilical cord and sail fourth on journeys of discovery, and report sightings upon reaching dock again. Or get lost and have no way to call for help.

Two tweets a day, a couple of texts, these add up to twenty eight sentences, enough to send news to a friend aboard, once a week. A challenge to myself.

(* I reserve the right to twitter announcements of my blogs publicising work on my site. All is vanity.)

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