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Sunday, January 31, 2010


I took the Megabus back from New York this afternoon. It was crowded, but I got a seat on the upper level, which I prefer.

On the way out of Manhattan, I noticed a woman up near the front who I had met at the community association meeting last month. I've talked before about coincidences , and how they often aren't as unlikely as they appear. Megabus is a natural place for such coincidences to occur, because its demographic is fairly narrow -- mostly young, traveling between NYC and DC.

Still, the extent that my world overlapped with the other people on the bus started to creep me out a little. I didn't see anybody else I knew, but the bus seemed to be a physical manifestation of the virtual element of this phenomenon. I was periodically checking the Facebook app on my phone to see if anyone had posted anything interesting, and the people seated next to me and in front of me both always seemed to be checking the app on their phones, too. A guy a few rows up called back to his friend to ask which celebrity looks like their friend Seth. "Doppelganger week," I thought to myself, remembering the meme that has been bouncing around for the past few days. A woman in the seat in front of me was reading all the same NYT most-emailed articles that I've been reading. (I know it sounds like I spent all my time peeking at other people's business, but I didn't have anything to read, and while listening to music and looking straight ahead it was impossible to not see.) Two people a couple rows up were talking about a link several of my friends have also posted.

These new media tools connect us to people who tend to be like ourselves, and any given trend or idea that hits the right buttons can ricochet through social sub-groups almost instantly. Now your peers act as the primary filter, instead of editors in the media. Hopefully we won't get to the point where most of the information you know is most of the same information that your peers know -- one can envision that helping people work together more easily, but impairing the creativity that comes from combining different sets of knowledge and experience.

Anyway, not a new observation to say that developments in social media have implications, but it was surreal to see it playing out in front of me on the bus.

(BTW, I had a good weekend in the city, I'll post tomorrow about a couple interesting things.)

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