Today a friend of mine posted the link from Lifehacker about the new Wolfram-Alpha Facebook Analytics app. Being a huge fan of Wolfram-Alpha, Facebook, and introspective self-analysis, I thought this was a brilliant idea. And it was! I learned a lot about myself and my friends’ perceptions of me. My most liked picture was of me drinking a bottle of wine in Paris, and my most commented picture was a copy of “A Dance with Dragons” with the elated “AAAAHHH! ITS OUT!”
But what I want to focus on right now is something I found much more revealing. The most frequently used words from my Facebook posts.
When looking at this list I am struck by the fact that the word “Love” is among them. It’s literally in the top ten things I say out of all the words in the English language. There is also a sense of immediacy here, as “Day,” “Today,” “Now,” and “Time” can attest. But Facebook status updates are often about the now, and less about the past. Though “Going” implies the future, and where I’m headed. “Think” and “Know” illustrate that I am bound up in my mind, and my sense of understanding (true or not). “People” comes first, and after that “One.” Perhaps that’s my communal nature showing itself; E Pluribus Unum.
Facebook is the pulse of where I am now. It’s where I spend a lot of my time online, and where I communicate with people that I care about in a very real and tangible way. It’s rare for me to friend someone who I’ve never met in person, or someone who is only tangentially connected to me. So there is truly a sense of love in the now there. Strange that I would feel that way about connecting to people through a website.
But this got me thinking. I’ve only been on Facebook since March of 2008. I’ve been on Livejournal for nearly a decade! I joined LJ in August of 2003, and for the most part I used LJ in a very similar way of connecting with friends, sharing silly status updates, writing blog posts and doing memes. So, let’s look at my LJ Tags.
True to LiveJournal’s roots in the deep old beginnings of Web 2.0, there was no good way for me to extract my tag data. So I went to my tag page, copied it out and ported it to Excel. Maybe I’m being too harsh. I honestly didn’t bother to go looking for an app or a tool to export my LJ tag data, but surely one must exist.
Anyhow, I love the top ten list, because they are a perfect picture of who I used to be. That’s right, I feel like in a lot of ways this data is really me five years ago.
Faeries refers to the Radical Faeries, a kind of anarcho-communist radical queer spiritual movement. I used to live and breathe Radical Faeries. But not so much any more. Our local circle has broken apart like a dandelion and blown to the four winds, and I haven’t been to a gathering proper in about 4 years or so. Though the Philly Gatherette two years ago did rekindle something in my soul, I still don’t feel as connected to Faeries as I used to. Silliness, Books, and Music however are still very high on my priority list. And though the JOB has changed, it still ranks high as well.
Store is the tag that cuts the most. It’s a latent reminder that I had a dream of running a metaphysical shop. I even did for a while with a good friend of mine. But the economy was shit and Pagans barely want to pay for classes, much less books and supplies. So, we closed it. It is firmly a part of my past, and seeing it there in the top ten reminds me how old this list is to my life.
Bitchery is the one I’m least proud of. It is the tag I use for venting about things that annoy me, regardless of their severity. From something problematic at work to the cold blooded depths of conservative rhetoric. That’s what’s stored in the bitchery tag. Though I feel that “commentary” and “introspection” lean me back into the more reflective state that I prefer to share with the world now.
I am somewhat relieved to see that “queer” comes before “memes” but the frequency of the memes tag says a lot about the age of this page. Remember that article I wrote about how much I hate memes. Yeah. Well, we all grow up, right? uh, right? Well, maybe “Comics,” “TV” and “Anime” say something about the state of my grown-up-ness. But even there I feel I’ve changed a lot. My reading tastes have floated back to non-fiction and novels, and graphic novels have become much less frequent in my life. Though I still love them. And anime is nearly non-existent to me now. Sad.
But if Livejournal is the snapshot of what my life used to be (even though I still use it from time to time to talk about other stuff), then this WordPress account is the snapshot of where my brain is now. I’ve had this account since Feb 2011, so about a year and a half now.
I went into this WordPress project with a lot of focus. This was going to be my professional site, and I was going to use this venue to sort out the content for my work related commentary, and push the content that was more focused on gender, queer stuff, and spirituality to my Livejournal. And I think that focus really shows. “Libraries,” “Google,” “Books,” and “Ebooks,” are the four largest elements here. That’s definitely intentional. This blog really looks at how these new technologies change and shape our experiences with library culture, and I spend a lot of time thinking about where these things can lead us.
I will also say that the volume of content on this blog is substantially smaller than in both Facebook and Livejournal, which have a rich background of years of data to analyze. The relative newness and the focus of this blog means that only a few things will rise to the top, because there isn’t as much to draw from. Also, this page is not the same kind of social experiment that LJ or Facebook is. This is a content sharing system, but the level of social interaction through a WordPress page is (at least in my experience) substantially lower. Not everyone is going to WordPress to catch up with their friends. Rather it’s a place where people share articles like this.
In looking at all of this data about myself, I see my own personal growth. It’s a story of a maturing adult, still playful, living in the new, but always exploring new things.
There’s a burgeoning field of literary and historical analysis called “culturomics” where people use the vast, scanned body of literature in Google’s ebook database to mine through for instances of words being used throughout the whole of published literature. It’s incredibly fascinating. And I believe that this exercise tonight is something that may be applied in the future when we study the lives and works of individuals. Looking at their tag clouds, or analyzing the density or frequency of word use can tell you something very different than the meaning embedded in their sentences. Breaking words from their context shows you an individual’s preoccupations. Putting those two things side-by-side tells you what they said as well as reveals their focus.
Maybe it’s narcissistic to want to be the subject of future historian’s data analysis projects, but damn if I don’t want to be there!