The internet is like a giant cocktail party.
No one wants to hang out with those who are hanging out alone, while people that are laughing, good-looking, and popular get all the attention. And the rich get richer, of course, so through this very behaviour, we reinforce who is popular and who is not.
It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that freelancers and startups refer to themselves as “we;” it should be expected that people namedrop to make themselves look good, and that they inflate their twitter and RSS subscribers to seem more successful than we are. It should also be expected that these tactics will diminish in effectiveness over time, since we all know that people doing them.
This behaviour is a kind of arms race– behaving this way keeps you in the middle class, keeping up with the Joneses, even though it’s sort of cheating. And despite it all, those that opt out of these acts still do seem network-poor, much to their own detriment.
Despite this, I think doing less and being absent may be a good solution to the constant maelstrom that is the real-time web. I already have a real-time life, and I’m wondering where to draw the line, how much virtual to insert into my reality. Maybe I shouldn’t be texting while hanging out with friends, but can I log in on foursquare? Is that not being present, not being respectful? I can’t even tell anymore.
Yet the more we interact in these spaces the more we respect the qualities they do, and act like the top tribe members act. For most, this necessarily involves faking it til you make it because social proofing is necessary for attention-getting, and therefore survival, in this place.
Think you’re immune to this? You’re not. Do you ever walk into an empty restaurant unless you already know it, or it was recommended to you? It happens less than you think. We do what we think is popular– what seems acceptable– to us and others. It’s natural– humans are a network and depend on each other for survival.
So if you’re on the bottom, trying hard for attention, how do you make it look effortless, and like you don’t need it? Or do you just say screw it, behave as you will, and hope for the best? Personally, I had it easy, so I’m not sure I know the answer to this question– do you?