throughout the narcissphere." A throwaway line from Chris Ayres, LA columnist for the Times of London, has been rattling around inside my head for a couple of weeks. Social networks — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace and all the rest — are all about the "I". Each service is a walled garden of Friends and Followers answering the question: "What are you doing?" The only people in the garden are the people I know, culled from my email address book or vetted by an invitation subroutine. My ego expands with my list of Friends, and I surf for ever more worthy Friends to enhance my Connections.
The Internet has always featured user-generated content: home pages, email, chat lines, fan fiction, blogs, wall postings and the Fifth Circle of Hell — wrathful and sullen comment threads. But the public Internet also delivers exabytes of professionally-generated content: the academic, journalistic, literary and — most recently — cinematic. It's got people we don't like, ideas we're afraid of, philosophies we haven't considered, chances we're not ready to take. It's life. The world. Everything.
Social networks carve up the Net into special interest groups so we mainly see the people who think like we do. No wonder the marketers and spammers are all over social media: we do their research work for them by lining up into the correct psychographic. I think I prefer a life that's not so easily pigeonholed.