Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Examined Life

I posted some pictures during the weekend to my social network site. It was the first time I posted pictures of my family. Previously most of the pictures I posted where about my work and colleagues. So I changed my privacy setting to allow only friends to access my profile and pictures. I guess I wanted to show what a life for someone like me is. Social networking is a way to leave some sort of record of one’s existence. What is a life? The question is answered while looking at the entries at these sites and seeing the pictures of all your friends and acquaintances as they grow old and live their lives. It may one way of finding meaning to life.

One day these sites will be the repository of all one’s existence. Future researchers would not need to travel to distant places, to dig up records or interview people. It will all be done in the web where all one’s life is in YouTube or FaceBook or in a blog. One could see how life has unfolded for people and documenting their passage in earth. These things provide the modern equivalent of reflecting about one’s life. Sometimes it would be a stupid video of one foolishly dancing in ancient ruins or a prank or playing basketball or something. But I think it would provide a momentary pause, and a slight second of reflection will cross the mind. Hence, it is the examined life in full Technicolor of videos, photos or blogs.

Is this what the Greek philosophers where saying when an unexamined life is not worth living? In this regard, everyman and his dog has a chance to review your life and give comments. All the latest technology provides everyone with the ability to document his life and inner thoughts hopefully, to make the world a better place by giving each one a chance to reflect on his life. Perhaps to even compare with others, to benchmark and see how others have lived their life and maybe to copy or learn from them. I read somewhere that the Kennedys are popular because their pictures provided a glimpse into their lifestyle and people try to follow them.

Unfortunately, all sorts of things are out there in the Internet. Some are garbage like famous movie stars with terrible videos of their sex lives that it's embarrassing. People like Paris Hilton or Pamela Anderson or another such famous people. Most of these videos where stolen illicitly but is now open to the public where everyone can comment on them and give their opinion. For the more normal folks like me, one just writes blogs, post pictures or videos in social networking sites and keep everyone informed. I guess it is a way to open oneself up and keep in touch. I used to think that checking emails, social sites like Facebook, or Yahoo Groups was a waste of time. In fact, it's staying in touch like calling an old friend and chatting on the phone but in global larger scale.

So is that a life? The sum of a person’s existence is seen in his blog, YouTube and Facebook. Can that provide a glimpse of what that person really is? Is being active with these new modern tools constitute an examined life as suggested by the philosophers? Sometime the feedback of this openness results in more self reflection and analysis. Posted videos of one’s shameful escapades often result in shame and ridicule which do change the people involved. The ability of the Internet to provide both self-reflection and feedback to one’s life can make one a better person or destroy one’s life. It’s suddenly a new force if one agrees to be connected and expose oneself to all that is out there in cyberspace.

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