Sunday, January 7, 2007

Living life 1.5

I picked up a copy of Time Magazine's "Person of the Year" issue and - lo and behold - the person being celebrated was me.

And you... And everyone.

The shiny, white iMac on the cover caught my eye, as did the reflective Mylar - a postmodern gimmick that reflects the viewer's own image back at them - and because I've been hearing so much about user-created content and Web 2.0, I just had to read more.

What I learned, and what I'm sure everyone logging into MySpace later today already knows, is that people are taking over the internet.

It goes something like this... In the old days, big corporations - Nike, Coke, Apple, The New York Times - built web pages where people would go to read, purchase, browse, whatever... But the companies and organizations that owned the web site controlled what you saw.

Web 2.0 says we control what we see... Go to my Flickr account and you'll see all the photos I've taken in the last year... Come to my MySpace profile and read about how I survived New Year's... Go to eBay and bid on stuff I'm selling... Point your browser to and read the book review I just wrote... That's Web 2.0.

And, essentially, it's the power of all that people-created stuff that made Time pick everyday citizens as the people of the year.

Why not?.. From the sounds of it, we've all been pretty busy...

This raises concerns, however, because if you've ever visited a random YouTube video - maybe the one where the guy performs dance moves to music through the decades, as Stacy showed me one day (and I want that six minutes of my life back, dammit) - you know that there's an awful lot of garbage out there.

That makes the quality stuff, the real cream, harder to find among all the junk... Web 2.0 provides tools, like, to help us sort, thankfully... But after a whlie all that crap takes up a lot of our attention - and a lot of our time.

For the most part I've embraced a lot of 2.0 stuff... I love reading through Wikipedia... I could spend hours on there, browsing through all the links, learning about how information interconnects... I use backpackit to keep a list of books I want to buy or interesting software I want to check out... I read Lifehacker every day to see how some geek in Idaho turned his Mac SE into a neon fish tank (and how I can repeat the process)...

I also read about people spending their entire lives on the computer, noting every little moment, typing in every little to-do for the day, wasting hours on YouTube watching a kitty fall over asleep.

Brian Williams, in a kind of counter-argument to the "Person of the Year" spread, wrote that "the danger just might be that we miss the next great book or next great idea, or that we fail to meet the next great challenge...because we're too busy celebrating ourselves."

I like spending time online, and wasting time reading my friends' blogs, but I make sure to actually live Life, version 1.0, because that's where the really good stuff happens.

You can't beat a scrap piece of paper, scribbled with the daily to-dos and crammed into your pocket... You can't beat actually watching some goofy animal do some goofy trick, right out there in nature.

[Side story:.. I'll never forget the day I watched a squirrel fall out of a tree - actually lose his/her footing and come crashing to the ground - while I was eating my lunch outside one summer day... That's life!]

And you sure as hell can't beat finding out about a person's life from their own lips... I learn more about Suzanne or Don or Ladane from spending a good meal together than I ever will reading their bulletins, no matter how much information they pack in there.

It makes me wonder how people my grandma's age ever got along without the Internet... Isn't that a strange thing to think about?.. Life Before?.. Here we've grown up with..the Web..since we were at least teenagers, and I've learned a lot trying to teach my grandma what all is possible with something as simple as, say, a Google search on who sang "Lean On Me.".. She still heads to the encyclopedia, even after all these years.

Sometimes just sitting, and thinking, and picking your teeth with a toothpick can be the best thing in the world, you know?

...well, maybe not... That one's pretty personal.

It'll be interesting to see where all this stuff leads to - where, say, Web 3.0 could take us... I just hope it won't be the hyper-celebrations of the Me Culture, the incessant desire to become..some crypto-Internet celebrity, that I have nightmares about.

But in the meantime, I'll be living the best of both worlds - trying to stay up-to-date on the latest and greatest, but still taking the time to live a life that isn't contained within a 17-inch LCD screen.

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