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  • Mark Zuckerberg, Whoever You Are, I Have Always Depended On The Content Of Strangers

    This week, it was announced that Zuckerberg will give his first live interview since the IPO, next week at Disrupt SF.  

    No doubt, he'll be asked to relive the last few months post-IPO, to talk about mobile development innovation, to talk about a world where a display advertising-centric monetization strategy just doesn't cut it anymore.

    I'll be in the audience, so I can't help but be excited. No one can deny the zeitgeist that is Facebook. Its quick and deadly ascent to social platform dominance, its Sauron-like control as the one-social-network-to-rule-them-all has been ShockandAwing the last few years.

    Facebook is the undiscovered country that we never imagined. The theatrical fourth wall that we knocked down, then couldn't believe existed before. What Zuckerberg and Facebook do IS exciting, and we know that it does truly affect the whole wide world and world wide web. 


    The backlash. Privacy concerns and confusion. Social Media ROI. FOMO. Depression/Anxiety. Bullying. Familiarity Breeding Contempt. Exhaustion. Friend Fatigue, or worse, UNFriending. The IPOh-boy-was-that-a-mistake-or-brilliant-or-what-will-happen-now?

    Me? I'm tired of talking about all of this stuff. I'll admit it, I'm bored. Bored with all the media hype and speculation and fear-mongering. Bored with the punditry, the psychological analyses and the social media/pop-culture love affair.

    But what does interest me about my boredom is that as a Facebook user, I'm kind of bored with my friends.

    (Shh. Don't tell them.)

    Zuckerberg has championed the human desire for ease of sharing our lives with friends. We can pretty much checkbox that desire as "Attained." We've found all our friends from IRL and it's been super fun. But now some of us are feeling that desire go cold. Some of us have been, for a couple of years now, finding our eyes straying, our minds wandering.

    An old habit, impossible to kick, has taken hold, and I find myself getting dependent again on my 1.0 Internet drug of choice: strangers.

    My favorite part of first making electronic friends was that they didn't know a damn thing about me.

    This was the early 90s,' and despite the warnings of various After-school TV Specials, I was super into strangers. 

    (In fact, here's me in 1998 telling the New York Daily News all about it.)

    On the 90s internet, you could be whoever you wanted, and no one knew any different. I was enough of a narcissistic teen that I very boringly chose to still be myself, but even that was a novelty with all these new pen-pals who had never met me in real life. They weren't like the friends I had grown up with who knew every story, the family members who teased me, the people from my city who all seemed the same same same.

    These blipping lines of telnetting text on my terminal screen were coming from other states, other countries. I was hearing amazing stories from exciting new people, and the stories I told were just as fascinating to them. 

    Most important, we were instantly united through the shared background of being dialed-in in the first place. We were a band of outsiders (from our realities) brought together through a united passion. 

    But the web grew. Content was created and indexed and made searchable. Communities formed. Geocities neighborhoods, CuSeeMe chats, AOL Chat Rooms, Web rings, blog networks, social networks, and then.... your friends!

    At last! Your real life friends and their litany of social actions ticking away at you through one all-encompassing platform. Duh duh duh duhhhhh... Facebook! It makes the big, overwhelming strange internet seem just like real life!...only without the spontaneity. Without the serendipity. Without the discovery of something or someone new.

    These days, it all just feels way too familiar. And though I still habitually check Facebook -- on my mobile more than anything else -- it is increasingly rare that I feel much emotional satisfaction from it. It's missing the kind of emotional charge that I can only truly get from the strange and new. The rush I feel when connecting with a new person who has the same niche interest as me just seems infinitely stronger than the relentless thump of random and mostly irrelevant "Likes" emitting from childhood/college/coworking friends who "Liked" the exact same things yesterday. Last week. Last year. Last decade. 

    Lately, I spend the bulk of my digital luxury time on Pinterest and Instagram, where I consistently discover new content and connect with strangers who share these interests. A couple months ago, when Emily remarked on what a Pinterest-obsessed, Instagramming floozy I was these days, I said, "I know, right? I'm really into strangers right now."

    Some things just don't change.

    So... what do I want to see at TechCrunch Disrupt this year? Something new. Something different. Something that truly feels "disruptive," rather than iterative. Because true disruption doesn't mean deconstruction. It means renovation. Creation.

    More than 15 years ago, the internet disrupted my real life by opening up an entirely new world of connections and content. I'm ready for that to happen again.