It used to be that mostly functional knowledge was shared in the news, but now we are the news. There is no delineation between what is news-worthy and what simply…happened. It is a cadre of a mishmash. It’s foie gras infused cotton candy. It’s a big sombrero with a tuxedo. No one item is “better” than the other on its own but the intermingling is what is confusing. I can have a note about a friend stuck in traffic right below an article about a gas explosion in Kenya.
Social data (gossips columns, status updates, digital checkins, etc.) has become life’s preffered currency because the value has been shifted from the search for functional knowledge to the sharing of information. Our interest in sharing that information has nothing to do with the overwhelming importance of the information itself, but the comfort in that everyone will be talking about it. (see: celebrity- anything, funny animal video-everything). Today, if one is able to share information quickly, he/she is then subsequently crowned a connector, regardless of the actual information that is being shared.
We’ve gone from doing to observing, from tinkering to gossiping, and from creating to circulating.
It’s like a never-ending game of digital whack-a-mole, only here, the moles are bits of social information. It comes in and we send it back out, quickly. Our culture seems to value being first over anything else, no matter if we are talking about discovering the Higgs Boson or sharing news that some celebrity is pregnant. Because first creates conversation, first creates followers, first implies status.
You know the feeling. You never want to be the last person to post something on facebook when all your friends have already done so because if that happens, you – unfortunately in the online world – are reduced to a guest; or, someone who only comments on someone else’s page. They are the hosts to the figurative party and the discussion that will be played out. You are in a crowded room trying to vie for elbow space.
Knowing that so-and-so slept with so-and-so has more significance to most of us than a new micro-farming application because we measure our social value with our peers on the quick heroin-like fix of gossip. Gossip is our form of social grooming. Gossip rules the day.
How do we keep ourselves in check?
We need to make functional knowledge trump purely social information a little more often than not. We all need to gossip, vent, and discuss the trivial things in life because that is what makes us a community, a family, a culture; but let’s all try to get a speed bump up on the Social Highway. Let’s think, create, challenge, improve.
We are the connected generation. We have the power to do with it what we wish. Let’s turn Information Nation into a Knowledge College. Let’s seek to learn and share, not just yearn to share. Our existence and progress depends on it.
Because if not us, then who?