5 Things I Learned From My FriendFeed Fast

I spent the better part of the last week in Connecticut in celebration of the 90th birthday. I adore my wife’s family but they are about as crazy as I am so keeping up with the wonderful world of FriendFeed was pushed way down the list of target objectives, buried by things like: keeping my sanity, not overdosing on food and sleeping.

I have  always enjoyed the insights of other Feeders following similar sabbaticals so I thought I would share some of my own. These may be, but are not meant to be, universally applied and except for #1 these are listed in no particular order.

I should first clarify something – this is not one of the “we spend too much damn time on the internet” paternalistic screeds I often see us subject one another to. I have never understood the off-handed attacks often made against the internet or communication facilitation tools like Friend Feed.

If I told someone that I had found a bar or coffee house where people regularly met in large groups to socialize and share massive amounts of ideas and information would they be likely to tell me that that is a ridiculous way to spend my time? Of course not, and yet that is what is essentially what I hear people say with regards to social media outlets like Friend Feed all the time.

If there is one thing that every society in the world has in common it is a desire and need for some kind of communication with their fellow citizens. It is a historically verifiable trend that humans have never stopped looking for ways to communicate more information, with more people, more quickly. Friend Feed is yet another example.

1) I must make it a priority to regularly unplug and process. I didn’t realize how badly I needed the 6 hour drive from DC to Connecticut. Between work and adjusting to the joys and demands of fatherhood I rarely take the time anymore to just be.

I recently commented that I have learned more in the last two months using Friend Feed than the previous six combined. I love that but that massive impartation of such vast quantities of information has spawned a myriad of ideas and contemplations and, until last week, I had been unwittingly pushing them aside.

My wife and son headed up to Connecticut a day before I left so I was able to crank the radio, throw open the windows and let my mind run free. Without even trying to I worked through several things I had been thinking about and gained a new level of clarity on some ideas I had been developing. I will be making this kind of activity a regular part of my life from now on.

2) The masses are no where near ready for this stuff. I’m wouldn’t have considered myself an early adopter prior to the revelation that was Twitter and Friend Feed so I interact with people who don’t “get it” every day. That said I have become more and more amazed by just how great the divide is between what is technologically possible and what society-at-large is prepared for.

“Normal” people are just getting the hang of texting – if they use Facebook they likely feel like they are on the bleeding edge. I become more convinced by the day that there has never been a time in recorded history when what is technologically possible so vastly out paces what is realistically viable.

3) The community that currently exists on Friend Feed is unbelievably special. With few exceptions, and allowing for differences in the degree to which the following statement is true, the lowest common denominator of everyone who participates currently understands the benefits of, and has an abnormal desire to expand their ability to communicate with others.

By and large the tone of the communications that occur on Friend Feed are marked by a respectful curiosity for one another’s ideas and opinions. It helps that, like many social media tools, Friend Feed allows users to unobtrusively share bits of information about themselves that, while trivial on their own, aggregate to form a bridge of commonality that greases the naturally rusty wheels of relationship building.

It would have been odd and unnatural if, during last week’s family reunion, I abruptly blurted out “I just listened to Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ and I love it!” and yet that is precisely what Friend Feed allows me to do.

Similarly, there are so many bits of information that would ease the process of getting to know someone you just met in person that we either don’t think to share or refrain from sharing because it is unnatural in that setting.

5) Its not going to be like that forever. As much of an optimist as I am I must sadly admit that, in time, human nature will pervert Friend Feed and strip the thing I love about it most.

As Friend Feed becomes more popular, the motivations of its users will become more decentralized and it will devolve into the very things that drove me to Friend Feed in the first place. The comment section of blogger Queen of Spain’s July 4 AOL Hot Seat question will, I fear, become more of the norm
should Friend Feed ever enjoy mass adoption.

As much as #5 saddens me I plan on throughly enjoying every glorious moment until then – if you are not currently using Friend Feed I would HIGHLY encourage you to join the fun. Look me up when you get there – I’ll be the one trying to convince everyone that not every Republican is insufferable.

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6 Responses to “5 Things I Learned From My FriendFeed Fast”

  1. J. Phil Says:

    Agreed, especially with #4 and #5, just like all great online communities like The Well or IRC, etc., the magic that is happening at FriendFeed right now probably won’t last. So enjoy it while you can! I certainly am!

  2. J Says:

    And probably long before the magic is entirely gone and FF is completely perverted or subverted, most of us who are there now will have moved on to something different and possibly even better. That’s the beauty of this type of thing. There’s room for improvement and growth and creative people out there expanding on what exists at this moment.

  3. Phil Says:

    (I’ll comment on FF too).

    What a remarkable post. I feel about the same way with regard to FF. It’s a great way to learn new things from quite remarkable people. I hope, too, that FF remains essentially what it is today, but you’re probably right about its MS future. We’ll see.

    I’m no techie god, but I sure am glad FF is around for me to learn so much more than I would have without it. And yes: you do need to unplug and let it all process.

  4. erinbyrne Says:

    Hey Marco – you are so connected and such an instant responder that your message gives me hope that I’ll make it too. I am taking a ten day sabbatical at the end of next week – going to Alaska to kayak the glaciers for ten days – and I am terrified of being disconnected. I have worked for my company for ten years and have never been out of touch where there is no service at all for ten days – honestly – the longest I’ve been out of range is a long flight. I’m hoping the social media jitters are gone by the second day. 🙂 If not, i’ll be sending smoke signals and asking you to transcribe.

    Thanks for such a great post. I really enjoy your blog.

  5. Matthias Says:

    Very well written. What strikes me, too, is this growing gap between “normal people” and the possibilities of modern technology.

    Concerning FriendFeed my opinion is a little bit different: Your experience with it should not change too much as long as you keep on following only a specific range of people. But of course your neighbors, family members and working colleages might make their way into it and “befriend” you. Then the experience with FriendFeed will change a lot…

  6. Dylan McIntosh Says:

    I agree with your article. I’m just getting into the friendfeed community, but even messing with twitter and plurk, I need to step back and spend some time just thinking.

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