Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

Archive for September, 2009

Modeling ourselves in the FourSquare and Twitter era

Posted by shannonclark on September 2, 2009


As a child I grew up without a television, instead I read hundreds of books and listened to old time radio shows and dramas both on the radio and on cassette tape (yes, I’m old, my childhood pre-dates CDs). Then a bit later in my childhood my parents bought me an odd but fun clock radio cube which also could get the audio of over-the-air broadcast television (remember that, something now impossible with today’s transition to digital television). I then would wake up every morning to the Rocky & Bullwinkle show but as a radio broadcast, not as the animated cartoon.

I somewhat suspect that the resulting confusion and neccessary imagination is why I write fiction.

But a more telling result of my childhood, until nearly when I started high school, of growing up without a television is that my models for behavior were of an older age than that of my peers combined with the fact that I was a year or two younger than all my classmates as a result of skipping the end of 2nd grade and finishing 3rd grade that same year after we had moved to a new city, and I was a very strange kid (and perhaps a bit of a strange adult).

Why this discursion into my childhood?

What does this have to do with Foursquare and Twitter?

I have been playing FourSquare since my friends all joined it during SWSWi earlier this year. (btw go vote for my talk proposal for SXSWi 2010) I wasn’t sure if I would keep it up back in San Francisco post-SXSWi but so far I have and in the past few weeks I’ve been seeing more and more friends join (via their requests to be my friends on FourSquare) and I find myself using it nearly every day if I manage to get out of the house.

While the opportunity it presents me to run into friends via seeing where they have just checked in, something I have taken advantage of on multiple occasions as well as the value it gives me by reminding me (or in many cases informing me) of events via seeing multiple people I know all check into the same venue at the same time are all valuable, it is another, more subtle use of FourSquare which I am really enjoying.

That of presenting to me, in a manner which I missed growing up without a TV, of a model of how to be, of how to work and play in this city. It may not be a great model, it certainly isn’t the only model, but observing over time the ebbs and flows of my friends, when they check into their gyms, when they do their grocery shopping, when they are at work, when they are working from a cafe, where they have lunch, when they go out for dinner, drinks and movies, is all very imformative – it is creates a model that is bigger than any single event or check-in, a model that communicates a great deal about living life in this city.

My friends are gay & straight, younger & older, single & married and there are also differences in how they each pass through their days and weeks in this city. All of which is incrediably fascinating to me and revelatory.

Combined with Twitter, where I follow over 1200 people, but only allow a very small number of those people’s messages through to my phone (in which case I see nearly eveyr tweet they send vs seeing only a fraction of most tweets from everyone else I follow) I have found myself in the past 6 months getting a lot of new insight into how other adults live their lives, how other independent, entrepreneurial consultants manage their time. And how my single friends vs my married (or in serious relationships) friends differ in how they spend their time.

These revelations are not major but they are thought provoking for me nonetheless. I have always wondered how people fit going to the gym into their schedules, now I have a far better sense of how at least some of my friends manage that task. I’ve never been much of a going out for drinks kinda of guy, neither are many of my friends, but I do get a bit of a sense of how some of my friends who are a bit more of one do. And it is via observing my friends who are married (in most cases of my friends I’m friends with and follow both partners and thus get two perspectives usually on their activities and relationships) that I’m getting a clearer picture of how, at least my friends, manage many of the details of being in a modern relationship.

For the past three and a half years (and really more like four years) I have been single. My last relationship ended before Twitter started, before Facebook was a big deal, before most of this current round of Web 2.0 (and now whatever we call them) applications took off and long before the iPhone. Now as I begin a new relationship (yeah!!!) I’m glad that I have had months (and via twitter years) of observing a bit of how my friends manage their modern relationships in this city and online. Every relationship is, of course, different and I know we’ll find our own tools and balance – but I have been struck of late by just how much I have absorbed without intending to absorb it from the ongoing small signals and messages I’ve followed of late.

What have you learned from how you use such tools?

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