You know that thing that you have to write under your user name every time you sign up for a new service. The one on your profile page. That nagging one-liner that everyone else seems to be better at. Sometimes it’s funny, like once I saw a guy call himself a “beer-thinking leader”. But most of the time it’s a seven-layer-bean-dip like summary of your entire educational and professional career.
For me, I’m rather conflicted by how often this quick, tangential vignette of our existence flexes its powerful vice in persuading us to follow one another. Does it say more about our ability to display ourselves with brevity and furthermore condense ourselves onto the shelves of the internet? Or does it say more about our growing inability to take the time away from our bustling and surfing? How to actually care if not hooked by our second-long muses’ synopsis?
I’ve struggled, as most of us have, to complete a summary and use it consistently. I’m sure there is some marketing guru out there getting paid to tell people to do this. I’m sure there’s another marketing guru out there telling people not to do this. Either way, I’m really tired of dealing with it in general. And it feels a certain flavor of horrible when evaluating another through it’s lense.
Why do we put ourselves through such trofts of misery? Is the internet becoming a tool of self-doubt perpetuating a new and more destructive breed of attention deficit disorder? And is this summary of our “profiles” really helping us construct an elaborate network of meaningful connections? I’d guess not, but the research is out.
Many years ago this RadioLab podcast talked about how FaceBook researchers had used the feeds of users to see if they could make them feel happy or sad. It was a disgustingly un-empathetic study done to many users without their knowledge or consent. I recently got shivers reading the Facebook homepage:
I’ve been logged out for a while. I do this about every year once I get to the point of feeling as though my ability to open a new browser tab and type the “f” is beyond my control. Once you log out and tell your browser to forget your login info, it’s amazing how quickly you land on this page and think, this stuff is worthless.
Now for Twitter that hasn’t been an issue for me. But I don’t really dig into much on Twitter itself. I more or less spend my time clicking things that take me away from Twitter. It’s an extraction type of interaction, where I take a queue and it opens new windows and I close said window when done and take another queue back at twitter. The shortness of the tweets allows me to quickly scroll through the feed and whatever distraction catches my fancy I sink my teeth into.
Though, here again comes my summary dilemma. So, is this really about soaking up the goods of a community through building lasting relationships? Or is it a race to collect indistinguishable follows and likes? I’m not sure, all I am sure of is that the jury is still out. In part because the research has not been done (that I know of). But the summary and these types of negative research in my opinion are institutionalizing the competition to beat one another with meritless bean counting. Then it also plays into our inability to concentrate and take something with a deep breathe. Which is something we dearly need more of.
What do we do? Destroy the summary. Don’t spend time writing it. It’s a worthless bogart of the past. Bring on long bios, friendly descriptions, or introductions… anything but a synopsis of your most precious life’s accomplishments. It’s a small nicety we could easily give one another.