I came across an interesting post on Grant McCracken's most excellent blog. Grant raises the topic of "exhaust data," referring to the oodles of communication happening on places like Twitter which is utterly unsubstantive and of little consequence to communicator or audience. He posits that "meaningless" communications (e.g., is it raining there? what is your cat doing now?) actually do serve a purpose - to communicate a series of messages, "each message presupposing and building on its predecessor. These messages are:
1. I exist.
2. I'm ok.
3. You exist.
4. You're ok.
5. The channel is open.
6. The network is exists.
7. The network is active.
8. The network is flowing."
You're not Twittering the weather and your cat's antics because the receiving party needs to know this stuff, you're telegraphing your intellectual and emotional availability and engagement. You're keeping yourself alive in your network, reminding people you're alive and kicking even though nothing of substance is happening.
If you think about all the other less than earth shattering interchanges in your life, it does all start to make sense - it's just happening at a faster rate, and in an easier more mobile way with today's interactive technologies and easy social networking.
Yes this is a tad abstract (for me at least; I remain a tireless proponent of Practical Vision) - but, I think it goes a long way to explaining why people spend hours and hours spouting nonsense and blather when they could just be silent instead. There's an emotional purpose, a basic human need being fulfilled.
Would love to get some dialogue going on this.....