“What we laughingly call the real world”


The study of industrial economics is, what, 235 years old?  And it was only about 220 years old when I struggled through a joint honours programme.  There I was exposed to the eloquence of (inter alia) Dr Quentin Outram.  I recall his delight in exploring theory A and critique B before tossing both on the bonfire, with contemporary thought C, as he said with a chuckle, “in what we laughingly call the real world”.  His subtext (or what I understood it to be) was that our attempts to explain reality will always be doomed to revision, that there will always be a reality yet more real that the one we’re currently dealing with, just like in Inception The Truman Show The Matrix Fight Club.

So…is anyone actually using Google+ (at least, for what Google hope you’ll use it for?).  Facebook perhaps wasn’t a great original invention, but it generated what you might call “critical mass” and has quickly evolved into a platform.  Google+ seems to think it has identified the fatal flaw with Facebook: that one’s friends are not homogenous group but rather, several smaller circles.  Paul Adams of Google had demonstrated as much over a year ago. We have circles of friends.  That’s wisdom so great that it verges on common sense.

I read with interest the complaints of Violet Blue (if that is her real name) about Google+’s “drama”.  Google is, after all, desperate to get this right.  And they believe that they are fixing the fundamental flaw of Facebook, MySpace, Twitter et al.

Google+ will

make connecting with people on the web more like connecting with them in the real world.

Except it won’t.  It may yet be successful.  Google may yet bring to bear the massive quantities of information they have and gather up Facebook’s users, but let’s not pretend Google+ or Facebook or anything else are like connecting “in the real world” was, or is.  Facebook caters to (amongst other things) exhibitionism.  It’s partly popular because exhibitionism is easier in Facebook than it is in the real world.  And it keeps friendships alive that would not survive, or simply were not possible in the real world.

As for circles of friend – yes, they certainly do exist.  But “circles” is the wrong name for them, as they aren’t circles, at least, not from the perspective of the person who is at the centre of them.  They’re irregular, they overlap and you are not equidistant from all points.  Who has not, at some point, had a “best friend”?

Just as social media is changing friendships, so is the nature of friendship informing how social media works.  But after nearly two and a half centuries of the dismal science, events of the past two years tell us that we retain a great ability to wholly ignorant of how we “really” work.

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