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The micro-star

Blake J. Graham | Wednesday, November 2, 2011

8,886 tweets — over 250 pages of text produced — in one second, because Beyonce announced her pregnancy. In just 60 seconds, there were enough words to fill the pages of 30 Stephen King novels. And that’s just one service, in one minute.

In a world where there are over 7 billion people on the planet, 800 million are on Facebook, 250 million use iOS devices and 100 million are active on Twitter. Were all of the experts of the social web to gather and secede from the world’s nations, they would form the third most populous country in the world, with the most intelligent and literate population. The proliferation of technological media has established a platform where anybody with a modem and a little courage can step out and seize their own celebrity. The beautiful thing about all these people is that they want to share and to listen.

Five years ago the concept of Twitter was non-existent. Who would want to broadcast self-indulgent information about their life to the public? A better question people asked was, “Who would want to listen to me?” Less than a month ago,

Twitter announced that over 40 percent of their users are exclusively passive. They broadcast no data; just consume others. They represent a population of completely silent individuals attentive to your every update, whether you’re sharing political commentary or what you ate for breakfast.

We have been trained that people do in fact care about the details of our lives, and each like, +1, favorite, retweet, heart or reblog is a small (perhaps miniscule) pat on the each other’s back. So, we keep sharing to perpetuate our own significance, to carve out a niche in a group representing 14 percent of the world’s population, to become micro-stars.

As technology has progressed in the last 70 years, it has turned from a cold and intimidating structure to one that mimics humanity. Less than 10 years ago, a driven genius at Harvard decided that our technology should become social, because we are social. If you follow Zuckerberg’s law, each year, the quantity of information shared online will double. When you look at the streams of data that pour in, you can see the flow increase. The feed of information on Facebook’s platform became so massive that it had to be split into the News Feed and the Ticker. In one minute of observing the Ticker, it becomes clear just how much is being shared — how much of our identities are online. Every song we listen to, every photo we like, every person we write to, every action we take casually glides downwards on the Ticker, mixed into a cyclone of activity.

We sit at tables with friends and reach for our phones. In silence we extend outwards into the supermassive ecosystem of the Internet and “interact” with others. We are bombarded with news, directions, ideas, knowledge and distractions. To keep up with the fire hose of data, we read blogs not newspapers — we view memes not Monet. But, there’s nothing wrong with that. We are connected to the world by flowing electrons, oscillating waves and ones and zeroes. We consume mountains of information and write libraries in hours. We are the hyper-connected, über-learnéd, quasi-vain population. In spite of it all, we still take what we’ve learned, put down our phones, remove our headphones, look into each other’s eyes and talk.