While not a member of the Net Generation (the 88 million Millennials for whom social networking is a birthright) myself, I have many friends and co-workers who qualify, and I am constantly baffled by their ease and eagerness to narrow- and broadcast their lives through digital media and with post-privacy transparency. The audience size doesn’t matter, it can be narrow or broad, but cast it must be, even if it is often mundane. And yet, it is one of the ironies of such “ego-casting” that the status updates, which become critical life signs, the activity metrics of one’s public life, do not begin with “I” but mostly appear in third person on Facebook and Twitter and the likes.
This is because all these outlets treat the amateur publisher as a dramatic person per se: “Anthony is happy.” – “Tim is working on an economic stimulus plan.” – “Sarah loves Tea Leaf Green.” When the Net Geners aggregate their social media publishing output into one FriendFeed, the effect becomes fully obvious: here we have the constant flux, the permanent Now as manifest and yet as fragmented as it can be. “It ain’t why, why, why, it just is,” Van Morrison sang, and another famous Irish artist, James Joyce, based on the concluding free-flow monologue of his Ulysses, would likely agree with the inevitability of “the river of life” as a never-ending “stream of consciousness” that affirms nothing but the fact that one is alive: “Yes.”