|Photo credit: amateurgourmet.com|
This shouldn't be foreign to anyone.
While some "bumper-stickering" occurs with certain article-sharing (people making identity claims via social readers, for example), we can all relate to the idea that some content makes us think of specific people that we want to reach out to in real-time to experience the content with. It enhances the experience: a primitive form of augmented reality, maybe.
I think it also serves a more evolutionary purpose: social network management. This is analogous to the link between gossiping and grooming.
I've blogged before about Wegner's notion of the transactive memory, a concept I love about how we get information into our heads (encode), arrange and add context (store), and eventually access when needed (retrieve) *as a group*. In my mind, this is underpinning of the success that Twitter is. It also helps explain this tendency we have to read-and-share as a means to coordinate our social network. That is, by sharing certain content with specific people, we more effectively encode, store, and retrieve information as a social network. Think of it like really effective curating. Simply by sharing links, we're making sense out of our expanding networks.
But something else happens when we read-and-share. We create virtual spaces. As the great sociologist Ray Oldenburg might say, we create "a third place." Places, really. Salons. Sharing links creates places for us to meet and talk about our shared interests. Traditionally a "third place" is a place of refuge. It's not your home, not your job. So these virtual salons we create let us escape-- or augment our reality-- while performing social network maintenance: clustering and categorizing our network.
I mentioned this to Stowe Boyd the other week-- our tendency to create 'salons' by sharing links (and related information). He likened it to the new form of passing out business cards. A form of saying, "meet me there" rather than "shoot me an email!" This works-- think about what's running through your head when you tweet out an article.
Like visualizing a race course before running it in order to be better prepared at racetime (i.e. to better predict and control differences in terrain and speed), reading-and-sharing better prepares you for future social interactions. I think it lets us escape while strengthening our metamemory of the knowledge that binds our networks.
Is that how you would characterize how you were feeling, @mercerthompson?