Internet friends



The ubiquity of Media 2.0 is considerably overwhelming. Not only is there a ubiquity of information but also of relationships and opinions. RSS feeds, filters and other aggregators have made our lives easier however have they simply narrowed our points of view in a world where we believe plurality of information is what we are receiving?

Take me for example, through its trending issues Twitter creates a world of endless information and mind broadening opinions. Instead I choose to niche myself and devote my time to stalking my own aggregated list of fashion designers, magazines and ditzy celebrities. Through Twitter I have every opportunity to explore far beyond my physical realm could ever allow, yet I still choose to stay within my comfort zone. Paradoxically a virtual world with endless knowledge has been hyperniched to create an isolated narrow world.

As Danah Boyd explains in her speech at the Web 2.0 expo in New York, “If we’re not careful we’re going to develop the psychological equivalent of obesity. We’ll find ourselves consuming content that is least beneficial for ourselves and for society as a whole.” (Boyd 2009)

Boyd also goes on to discuss the new ubiquitous nature of relationships in our modern technological world. I must admit out of my 400 something friends on Facebook, I probably only communicate with a maximum of 50 (that’s stretching it) of them online, and even less in the real world. But that number, which is a complete misrepresentation of my actual friendship circle, gives me a sense of comfort in the knowledge that although I don’t communicate with them, they are still there whether they are really aware of my existence or not. A relationship (although completely invalid in the real world) does exist under the guise of ‘Facebook friends’. Boyd refers to this as ‘parasocial relations.’ A relationship that despite its presence online, does not gain any real benefits of social intimacy or bonding and cannot be transferred into the real social realm.

“We want to know what’s happening to other people because that information brings us closer to people. When we know something about someone, there’s a sense of connection.” (Boyd 2009) These connections are often one sided and only valid within the context of which it was created.

The dangers of believing that your Facebook ‘friends’ are real:


Boyd, D 2009, ‘Streams of Content, Limited Attention: The Flow of Information through Social Media’ Speech presented at the Web 2.0 Expo, New York, NY, 17 November.




For some reason I would like to consider the entire notion of my existence and those around me as more than a social body simply consisting of a collection of bodies and events which consist of a series of relays between different bodies. (Murphie 2013) Not only does the use of the word bodies spark a notion of morbidity but I would also like to think that my life is a little more meaningful and less mechanical. Yet when I think about the world in which we are increasingly entering into, one of keyboard communication and tiny visualisations of our current facial expression, the idea of the social body not being as human as I’d imagined doesn’t seem to far off.

With our increasing reliance on data to structure our lives and give us a sense of self, the public becomes a kind of shifting data in itself, representing an imagined community with nevertheless a real effect. One’s RSS feed says a lot more about them than would an old fashion shake of the hand. The metadata in which we choose to incorporate into our lives becomes the way in which we frame our world and structures the nature of the ‘relays’ between our bodies. We in ourselves are becoming less human and more bodies relying on technology to live.

However, data in its raw form is of no use to most of us who simply see the Internet through Google and peoples lives through Facebook timelines. No, despite our apparent technological literacy, we need something to decipher this metadata for us and it’s not until we see such information in visual form that we will understand its full meaning.

Visualisations are an aggregator of information that concerns the social body and therefore engages us in a much more complex world through much simpler means. (Murphie 2013) For example Climate Change is an issue of extreme social concern yet one which is difficult to demonstrate in an air-conditioned lecture theatre. Visualisations can make the invisible visible and in this case are crucial in influencing how the social body will behave and what they will become.(Murphie 2013)

Seems a lot nastier than a bunch of big numbers and scientific words:

But I’m probably only going to pay attention when cute animals get involved:


Murphie, A 2013,Real-time/modulated publication/publicslecture notes distributed in ARTS2090: Publics and Publishing at The University of New South Wales, accessed on May 13 2013, < >