Are you a Me Too person? I’m a Me Too person. I like to be included in things, whether I get thee by my own merit or gate jump my way in. Being Meta is all about the act of Me Too. At the risk of being self-referential, I love the idea of acting Meta. Not just blogging about blogs, or sending out tweets about Twitter, but the whole concept implied by meta itself. Perhaps I should explain what meta is, first, then maybe you’ll see the appeal.
As it applies on the web, and more recently on blogs and other applications, meta data consists of anything attached to a slice of real content – a blog post, a tweet, a picture you post on Facebook or Flickr – that is not actually the content itself. Tags, locations, author names, just about anything you can imagine pertaining to the content itself, can be made into metadata. If you’ve ever watched the news and seen the banners and tickers on the bottom – guess what? You’re looking at CNN’s metadata for the news you’re watching! What counts is less what people add to content as metadata. What counts, in the end, is what gets done with this extra information.
Meta data can include you in a lot of things. Some of the best examples of human metadata are business cards. We see a lot of Mr or Mrs or Ms, quite a few notes about degrees, PhDs after names, all of these bits we label ourselves with in order to create a platform on which to do our work. Metadata has been around a lot longer than the internet, but as it often does, technology has given us an appropriate, specific category into which to shove all of this extra information until it’s situationally relevant for us to pull out of our collective hats.
So what’s the big deal? How does this apply to being a me-too person? Meta is all about self-inclusion. It’s a force we often don’t recognize, at least when applying it to our community lives. Look at any of hundreds of pictures on Flickr – people have tagged the hell out of them in an effort to include themselves in someone else’s work. They comment, self-referential or not, to be noticed and maybe followed back to their home bases. But that’s ok, because that’s how community starts.
When we think about metadata often we think about how we can use this stuff to our advantage. It’s very useful, including the PhD on all of your contact lists where it’s deserved, because if you’re ever looking for smart people, you know where to start. For the same reason, it’s useful to fill in all of those boxes, required or not, when you comment on people’s websites, because commenting implies you want to be found, and leaving avenues for people to find you is a good idea. It makes you available, and being available is one of the major components of playing the me-too game.
The Meta Human isn’t just a phenomenon, for most of us it’s a reality. Technology gives us a lot of tools to make ourselves available to others. Profiles, social networking, personal branding – it’s all metadata, but so many people spend so much time and effort in attempts to make their identity fit the meta thoroughly, include everything meta in everything they do. From Tweeting about taking a shower, to slapping photos of your last drunken stupor on Facebook, people are intertwining their personas with the public record by attaching all of this extra junk to their timelines.
It does a lot of damage, as well as doing a lot of good. In the end, the people who will come out on top are those who learn not just to read the content, but who know what to do with the metadata attached to it. Which pieces to ignore, which to catalogue for future use. And, more importantly, an appropriate time to call on all of this secret handshake style contextual content as the hidden key to open which secret door.
All of which begs two questions:
How are you controlling what meta gets attached to your data? (and)
What are you doing about all of the extra stuff you’re soaking in along the way?