Inevitably, there comes a time in your life when you find yourself out of touch with the modern world. It can creep up on you, after having accepted the status quo and refusing to follow each of the newest innovations. Or it can you take by surprise, like an unexpectedly forceful tidal wave. Either way, the time will come when young people shake their heads about your inability to understand whatever innovation is dominating their lives. It has happened to virtually all generations before us, why should we be an exception?
I used to believe that I might be particularly prone to having the rug pulled out from underneath my feet: Having experiencing the rapid pace of technical innovation of the late 90s and the emerging internet age, I had frequently seen paradigms changing from one day to another. Because of this, I had settled into a comfortable self-image of being able to keep up with everything new: Sure, I may not use Twitter to the full extent of its capabilities, but I get it. All of this seemed a given until I encountered Path.
Created by a couple of folks around Shawn Fanning (of Napster fame), Path is currently wedging it’s foot into the door of what we consider social networking. The platform runs on mobile phones and allows you to create a digital logbook of activities, arranged into a coherent stream of activities – hence the name of the platform. What is so striking about Path is not that it blatantly mashes together a bunch of other social networks but that the result is unapologetically Orwellian; prompting me to feel like I have entirely missed the boat. The idea is to literally chronicle your each and every move through constant interaction with the software, starting in the morning with the touch of a button labelled “Awake”.
In their demo video, a beaming Path employee lists the things she uses the network for and manages to sound creepier with each item:
I use Path to share photos and videos, who I’m with, where I am, what music I am listening to, what I’m thinking, when I wake up and go to sleep.
So far, it is too early to tell if Path is going to take off. Yet from what I have seen online, it is currently enjoying a somewhat rapid rate of adoption. That is surprising to me, exactly because it has “too much information” written all over it. I wouldn’t claim to know the absolute truth about what amount of online sharing is right, but software like this signals to me that we may be entering a crucial period when this question is being answered by our online behavior. The point is: Less can most definitely be more – and just because we have the technology to enable more sharing doesn’t mean to we also need to engage in it. Let’s face it: Nobody’s life is interesting enough to be broadcast every waking minute. This is why I remain cautiously positive that we can use the internet for something much greater than publishing a never-ending stream of trivialities. But then again, in terms of the internet I may also have to get used to such ideas of mine becoming quickly outdated.