Tracking and cataloguing your everyday life online is inherently narcissistic. Whether you’re posting a silly video you enjoyed, a thoughtful think piece, a status about your day, or a selfie from your night at the club, you think that whatever’s rattling around in your head is of interest to the world. Obviously, some posts are more narcissistic than others: uploading a shot of you with your flawless ripped abs with the one-word caption “#summer” is more self-indulgent than sharing a podcast you enjoyed, but you get what I mean.
It’s no surprise that our behaviour is so narcissistic. As a consumerist culture, we’re taught to focus on ourselves. How do I make myself look good? How do I make my life easier? How can I be cool? In short, what can I buy that will make me my best self and therefore make me happy? But, as anyone who’s tried shopping to fill the hole in their psyche can attest, it’s not satisfying. The joy is fleeting, then forgotten, and the hole remains.
Likewise, it’s the same with social media. The pleasure of seeing that your post got a bunch of likes is nice, but not lasting. It just wastes time and fails to fill the hole. It’s a quick fix that doesn’t work.
In addition to proving the narcissism and obsession with instant gratification in our society, our tracking and sharing of our personal data unintentionally reveals how we block out our flaws from public view. While we share our favourite moments, we also constantly omit our struggles. We post photos of us partying with our friends, but never talk about how we spent the morning after feeling sick and alone. We show off our weight loss, but don’t acknowledge when we get out of shape again. Our tracking and sharing shows how selective we are with how we portray ourselves and how little we actually reveal of ourselves to the people we know. Though we share more of our thoughts than ever before, it’s sort of an illusion: we’re mainly just sharing more positive things than ever before, not providing a fuller picture of ourselves. We’re just warping our public perception to slant towards how good our lives are.
I try to not take too many photos and I seldom post personal things on social media because I dislike the culture I just described. I like being in the moment, and I often feel sad when I see people tracking themselves instead of enjoying the concerts their at, or enjoying their food, or whatever awesome thing they’re doing at the time. However, I still have a significant digital footprint, and I am definitely not flawless.
I tracked my digital actions from 8 am on Thursday to 8 am on Friday.
In that time, this was my behaviour:
95 minutes on facebook and twitter. 5 minutes in the morning, 30 minutes around noon, 60 minutes in the evening. 15 of the 30 minutes around noon were spent scheduling a podcast recording and finding out a location of event I was going to that afternoon. 5 of the 60 minutes in the evening were spent finding the location of my sketch group’s rehearsal. Otherwise, all of the time I spent on social media was just looking aimlessly at my news feed.
10 minutes finding and printing out sheet music for 2 pieces I’m considering learning on piano.
1 hour listening to Chopin and Dvorak on Youtube as I got ready to leave the house.
5 minutes on gmail checking emails and looking at the google calendar that the host of my podcast sent me.
20 minutes mixing down a podcast into one file then editing it in Garageband.
3 minutes playing a virtual reality game at the ProFusion Pro Imaging Expo.
1 minute taking digital photos at the expo, 3 minutes being photographed at the photoshoot for Riot (a Ryerson sketch comedy group).
20 minutes using google to help me with my marketing homework, 25 minutes doing a marketing quiz online.
9 minutes spent texting. 2 minutes texting my friend in the afternoon before the Pro Imaging Expo about being late. 7 minutes texting my mum intermittently late at night to tell her I was coming home late from the Riot 1st meeting party.
2 minute phone call on my cellphone with Beck Taxi at 3 am to get home from the party.
10 minutes writing all of my activities down in this blog post.
Through this exercise, I discovered that even on days where I go outside and do interesting things instead of spending all day at home on the internet, I’m interacting with digital technology way more than I realized. Even non-electronic activities I did like taking a piano lesson required preparation using digital media (i.e. looking up the song I was learning on YouTube, finding sheet music for it). It definitely opened my eyes to how integral and often unnoticed digital media is in modern society.
To close this entry, I’d like to talk about 2 infographics that I like. In order to be considered great, an infographic must have a compelling story, great data, a visual style that supports the story, and it must be easy to share.
The first infographic that I think fulfills those criteria is this infographic about octopuses.
The “sharability” of the diagram is great. It was created for World Octopus Day so it capitalized on a hot topic when it was published, but it’s still interesting on any day of the year. It mainly appeals to kids between the ages of 8 and 14 who are enjoying learning trivia and developing more detailed understandings of animals, but it’s a fun piece for any age demographic.
The story is that an octopus is a very weird animal. That’s a very engaging story, especially because the data given to support the story isn’t filled with well-known but technically still weird facts like “octopuses squirt ink” and “octopuses are intelligent”. The data they use is as uncommon as it is compelling, and the way they present it is satisfyingly simple. Their section where they show a picture of an eagle then talked about how octopuses have beaks is the perfect proof that this infographic works.
The visual style of the piece is also great. The dark blue background reminds the reader of the ocean, while the dark orange reminds them of octopuses. Meanwhile, the white lightens the colour palate of the piece and thus lightens the tone of the piece, plus it provides a good neutral colour that fits with the sea theme so the main colours can shine.
My second infographic is this infographic on how to be productive. The story is timelessly important: the struggle to be more productive in everyday. Consequently, it’s very sharable. It appeals mainly to 30-something career oriented people, but the same rules can be useful to anyone in school and anyone that hasn’t retired.
The data is great because it’s made up of unusual tips for productivity, and none of the tips are too complex to incorporate into everyday life. Therefore, the infographic is more likely to be actually useful to someone trying to be more productive. Moreover, the visuals are good because they manage to break over 30 facts into manageable chunks through categories, the infographic is arranged in a way that lets the eye travel naturally, and the colors and font create visual unity while still differentiating between subjects.