Facebook vs Truth

My life on Facebook is an airbrushed and Instagrammed image of my real life”

Sarah Emily Tuttle-Singer

After my “raw” post about death, a friend pointed me to this post on Kevller.com (a parenting blog): We Need to Quit Telling Lies on FacebookIn it, Sarah Emily Tuttle-Singer, retells the her weekend story as it ‘really’ happened. She opposes the instagramifying of life on Facebook by writing the nitty-gritty of her weekend, including zit squeezing and impertinent tampon questions from her son, including the inevitable reference to penises and vaginas. Which according to the books she read, it is a device one must employ when trying to communicate the ‘truth’ of life to our children.

I agree with her. We do try to appear smarter, prettier, and more interesting than we really are on Facebook. I often edit out the sad and boring parts of my life and try to glorify the small mundane moments such as the few sunny days we get in Seattle. I frequently check to see what got likes and comments and every time I conclude that when statuses are happy, uplifting and have a dash of Zen people like them. I also know that photos of my children tend to get the most likes, so obviously, I post more of them. I succumb to the positive biased system that Facebook has built in.

But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that and nor should we try to change it. The minute you are publishing anything anywhere you are never going to be 100% truthful. It’s the innate property of mediated communication. Allow me to explain:

Facebook is a communication medium. You transmit a message in a particular way using photos, videos, text, etc. and the other person gets the message through that platform which has its own properties, like the bias towards positive engagement (i.e. there is no thumbs-down option). To communicate on Facebook, you are going through a creative process of composing, editing and getting feedback. That process in itself will always result in a version of the truth that is a bit ‘prettier’. And that is true for any medium. When we watch TV shows, apartments are larger, hairs are always done, clothes are new, people are more interesting and consistent that in real life. Of course, the desire to get more ‘real’ content is not new. In TV we have created aberrations like reality TV to satisfy that desire. But it turns out that we can’t really watch reality, so after taping something like 18 hours a team goes and edits it down to 45 minutes… so reality gets pretty much edited out in order to produce a palatable show.

Thank goodness!

The truth is that our true lives are too long, uneventful, chaotic and plain inexplicable to communicate to others in ANY medium. Only we can experience it directly and in its whole truth. So by all means, please continue to be the smarter, prettier, happier version of yourself on Facebook. I am way more likely to ‘like’ you.

Why you will stop watching YouTube

I never really got into YouTube.  I can watch TV because it’s easy to keep it in the background, but with online videos I can’t multi-task. They annoy me. Most of them are bad (mine are particularly terrible) and even when the videos are good I find them slow and they are always buffering. ALWAYS bufffffffering.  And then, when they finally load I am subject to this all-or-nothing model that doesn’t seem to ever go as fast as I want. What’s even more annoying: I can’t easily skip to a particular point in the video. It’s like listening to cassettes. Yes, cassettes! Remember rewinding the tape or trying to fast forward and then the tape got all messed up? Same thing!

99% of the videos I start watching, I never finish.

On the other hand, if you haven’t heard, animated GIFs are cool. And if you are rolling your eyes, you are old. In an article on the re-birth of animated GIFs, Alex Williams from New York Times quotes Jason Tanz, the executive editor of Wired saying:

“For people in their 20s, GIFs are a relic of their childhood, so it makes sense they would come back as a fashion statement — just like ’70s fashion came back in the ’90s, and the ’90s are coming back around now”

Williams whole argument is that animated GIFs are like vinyl. But, I think Mat Honan from Wired had a better insight in his article Why Vine will be the next big thing:

The very best things we make are the things that allow us to make even better things: tools that create connections and empower creativity.

And I would add one more thing that explains why animated GIFs are a huge trend: You can spend hours just browsing these ‘looped videos’ easily. They are short, they’re always playing, and the stuff people are doing is quite amazing!

Now, to the battle of who will be the YouTube or Instagram of animated GIFs. There are so many apps already! I’ve been playing with GifBoom (I feel ancient looking at other users) and Vine* (thankfully the median age is closer to mine) and they are pretty fun and easy to use. However, most of these apps have trouble enabling embedding, sharing and attributing. For example, to embed the Vine video below, I had to look up some work-around because WP.com doesn’t recognize iframes. All the other animated GIFs in this post were just downloaded and uploaded, a process that made me forget to record where I got them from.

So before too many evil marketers like me figure out how to use animated GIFs to sell you more stuff (see nice example below from CINEgif), come explore the non-buffering world of really short looped videos and be amazed on what constraints can result in. Once you see, you’ll never go back…to YouTube.


*Ok, Vine is technically not an animated gif, but it can kind of work like one.