Tuesday, August 8, 2006

A Self-Serving Public Service Message...

A Self-Serving Public Service Message...
Originally uploaded by lorenzodom

I contend that for must users, flickr is inherently “self-serving,” as are phenomenally popular sites such as Blogger.com, MySpace.com and Friendster.

Tom Smith, of Information Week writes this morning that “the number of blogs has increased 100-fold since 2003 to 50 million. In addition, the total has doubled every six months for about two years, according to a new report quantifying the blogosphere by Technorati. In July alone, there were 1.6 million blog postings daily, or 18.6 per second. Two blogs were created each second of each day.”

Moreover, MySpace alone, now has 95 million registered users, that ‘s more people than there are in countries like Germany and France (and every other EU country), Canada, and the Philippines.

Recently, I had a conversation with Stewart Butterfield, one of the co-founders of flickr, and he excitedly conveyed, saying it twice within a matter of minutes, that flickr is now getting “more than a million uploads of images a day”…a day.

Albeit, the numbers are fairly astounding, I am not shocked to hear them, because as I relayed to Stewart, I believe part of the brilliance of their application (and others like flickr) is that it keenly serves the ego of the individual. All one needs is a few positive comments from some virtual stranger, somewhere half-way across the world, someone you may never, meet, touch, feel, hear, taste, or even see in person, and your day is made, you get giddy with goose bumps, you brim with self-satisfaction because someone praised something you created or shared what is otherwise a “real” part of your life.

However, perhaps more importantly, both photo and blogging sites not only serve our individual egos (and thus make us happy), but they serve what I believe is a much greater purpose: they connect us to each other, they build communities, they enable us to share our quite common, yet, utterly diverse, lives with each other.

For some of us it also a very encouraging way to spur our creativity, boost our self-confidence, document our (daily) lives, make art of our lives, as well as make friends, network and “hook-up.”

Sadly though, it is can also be a means for some to clamor for attention in ways that are conniving, malevolent, sometimes vile, and often vicious.

Apparently, there are now formal outlets of sorts where sadists and masochists meet to be cruel to each other. They are known as “delete-me” groups on flickr where you post a photo and fellow members purposely lambaste you and tell you what a horrible photographer you are. Sounds like fun. Well, not really, at least not for me. But then again, each to her own.

Nonetheless and allthemore, my photos occasionally get derogatory, sarcastic remarks accusing me of being “self-serving.”

Well, the truth is, I most certainly am. But then again, so is everyone else. Who doesn’t like to feel the love?

Besides, unless you are one of those darlings who by chance was chosen to represent the face of flickr, your screams and squeals are silent in cyberspace. In other words, if you don’t promote yourself, say “Hey, look at me!” it is likely that no one else will. Unless, of course, your work or your words or your opinion merit promotion; in other words, are interesting.

Then again, I may be making a mountain out of a molehill, una tormenta en un vaso de agua, زوبعة في فنجان (zawba3atun fii finjaanin), Sääsest elevanti tegema, Делать из мухи слона. For the critics are actually relatively few, but their impact is great. It is like trying to sleep in a big room with one seemingly invisible, hungry mosquito. A better analogy might be the feeling you get when flickr “friends” indiscriminately post really bad photos of you…

In sum, in Dutch, Finnish and Italian the proverb to describe my feeling here is relatively the same: Van een mug een olifant maken, tehdä kärpäsestä härkänen, Fare d'una mosca un elefante—don’t make an elephant out of a mosquito.

Nonetheless and allthemore, I will add that to be truly “self-serving,” you would have to post primarily photos of yourself (i.e. self portraits). However, when you share pictures of other’s lives or the life that bubbles, brims over, and explodes around you, then that should indicate quite clearly that you are interested in the beauty of others’ lives (and not just your own or yourself). I think most of us then, really, are not as “self-serving” as we might be accused of being.

Granted, it takes some gall to “promote one self”—some see it as self-confidence or an ability to employ some basic marketing skills; others as arrogance or narcissism—personally, I like to see it as levels of one’s ability and comfort to share with others.

Although, I will say that it is quite ironic that practically any “beautiful” woman can be a successful self-portrait artist, and no one will ever say anything about the inherent narcissism. Personally, I admire these people, the men and women who can creatively express themselves, even if the vast majority of the images they share are of themselves, because it demonstrates a certain amount of courage and willingness to risk putting oneself on the line, out before the crowd for all to see and potentially poke at, prod and make fun of.

So I say “So, what?” if someone posts a photo of themselves or writes about their day, their adventures, their disappointments or accomplishments. If these things are of no interest to you, than you most certainly have the freedom NOT to click on the thumbnail, not to read the accompanying description and not to leave a derisive comment. As Mr. Butterfield might say, there are a gazillion other choices to choose from if need be.

I further contend that those who like to criticize are simply trying to bring attention to themselves, and thus are just as self-serving, if not more so, than those they accuse. I gather they are either envious, don’t get enough love, or simply have lives that are a lot less interesting than those of others.

That’s nobody’s fault but their own, because we all prospectively have interesting lives, and we simply have to make an effort to make them interesting. Moreover, one has to make an effort to see their life as such. Perception is everything. So if you think your life is dull, bland, boring—turn it over, take a look at its underside, shake it up and see what falls from the dusty rafters.

But more importantly reach out, connect with others, touch someone with a positive comment, and ultimately take advantage of this brave new world in which the world is now accessible to you straight from your computer screen.

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years of trying to get other people interested in you.” - Dale Carnegie

The world is becoming a better place because of sites like flickr that open our eyes to the wonders that bristle about us. Ultimately, they facilitate greater interest in ourselves, as well as those around us.

And thus, when we are inspired to impart diurnal tidbits, and in turn, celebrate both the inherent diversity, as well as our common bonds—we realize that the individual is just as important as the unified whole. Ultimately, we see that we, are alone—yet, we, are still one.


Post-Scripte: So, is this message or the sites I cited truly-really “Self-Serving”? Maybe not, maybe yes.

All I really wanted to do is state my opinion and solicit the opinions of others in turn. I certainly didn’t think that this merits creating a new flickr group; just looking to hear from others, here and now.

And by the way, I welcome opinions posted in earnest. As to those who merely wish to vent, clamor, or hurt others who comment—your remarks will promptly be deleted.

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