April 08, 2008

The Web's Secret Stories

"I feel empty and sad."
"I feel invisible to you."
"I feel miserable and lonely."
"I feel like I'm in the fog of depression."
"I feel like it won't be fun if it's not the both of us."
"I feel like I've been at the computer the whole day."

Human beings have a compelling need to express themselves. Especially after a traumatic experience such as: a broken relationship, a car crash, and a random act of Mother Nature threatening our assumptions of security. We need to talk about our feelings, reconnect with other people, and bridge the inevitable gap created by traumatic experiences.

Have you ever noticed how many times someone retells a shocking story? Even to total strangers? I’m sure every grocery checker across the greater USA has heard more stories than “thank you’s” for not having smashed people’s Wonder bread while scanning the price. I’m guessing most folks are like myself, though. We unload our groceries in the car and berate ourselves for crying to a complete stranger about the terrible thing that just happened in our lives. Despite our embarrassment, there is healing in the retelling. (Though the grocery checker may need treatment for post-traumatic-stress induced by overwrought customers.)

As Jonathan Harris humorously states, “[There is a] gap between our desire to express ourselves and the number of friends sitting around who are willing to listen to our self-expression.”

Even an everyday car crash invites obsessive rumination seeking precipitate cause to unpredictable consequences. If we understand why we were bumper-smacked at a red light, we can avoid being bumper-smacked a second time. We aren’t objective observers of our story, however. We express a vast array of feelings in the retelling. In essence, we are reconnecting ourselves to the common ground of human emotion. Not only did we have a car crash while sitting at a stop light on the way to the grocery store, we feel angry, miserable, frightened and singled-out as a result. After all, everybody in the whole world is completely oblivious to the fact that we can’t afford our insurance deductible! The nerve of them! I mean, really!

What’s amazing is that with the advent of blogging, we can park a dented car in the garage, unload groceries, log-on the computer, click to our blog site and share our story with a world of unseen listeners. We vent feelings, express pain, release frustrations and eventually, organize logical steps towards paying the deductible and fixing our car.

"The Day Some Idiot Smashed my Bumper" becomes one of countless stories on the Internet.

I was inspired by Jonathan Harris's speech The Web's Secret Stories and ressured there is meaning in the thousands of blogs filling the web with expressions of everyday suffering. Harris delivered this speech to a conference in Monterey, California but it's free to the public on TED's website. If you’re unfamiliar with TED Talks, you’ll be delighted to add their link to your Favorites: TED: Technology, Entertainment, Design "...a community welcoming people from every discipline and culture who have just two things in common: they seek a deeper understanding of the world, and they hope to turn that understanding into a better future for us all."

Link: The Web's Secret Stories by Jonathan Harris

"Jonathan Harris wants to make sense of the infinite world on the Web -- so he builds dazzling graphic interfaces that help us visualize the data floating around out there. Here he presents "We Feel Fine," a project that scours blogs to collect the planet's emoti(c)ons, and the "Yahoo! Time Capsule," which preserves images, quotes and thoughts snapped up in 2006. And he premieres "Universe," which presents current events as constellations of words -- a tag cloud of our collective consciousness."

Hugs all, 

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