You are what you share

My column this week in Expansión, Spain’s leading financial daily, is called “You are what you share” (pdf in Spanish), and asks some questions about what lies behind a very common activity among consumers of online information, but is not so natural for people who have simply transferred their habits from the analogical world: sharing.

Sharing information is a much more interesting and complex activity than one might at first imagine. More than a mere gesture, it is actually a different way of managing information in an environment within which managing information efficiently has become a major challenge. It’s a very simple thing to do, and really only involves installing a button on your navigation bar and then acquiring the habit of using it regularly, but it has enormous potential. In the first place, it marks a step from being a mere consumer of information to taking a more participative approach: from unidirectional to bidirectional. And it also marks a change in attitude toward being somebody who uses information efficiently, given that the habit of sharing involves creating an archive. In many cases, the reason for sharing is not simply to give something useful to those on the other side of the screen, but provide benefits to oneself in the form of feedback and information management.

But something subtler is going on as well: what we share says a great deal about us. Somebody who only shares news about certain topics will inevitably become associated with them. Somebody who only shares jokes will be seen as jokey—or worse—depending on the quality and the quantity.

Creating an archive to share information on the social networks or information management tools can become a way to establish a personal brand, a way of being associated with certain topics and trends. Information sharing can be a powerful tool, and although it is still misunderstood by many—who see it simply as a way of attracting attention—it has huge potential benefits.

Below, the text in full:

You are what you share

Sharing is an inherent part of living in society. Considered a basic function associated with the development of language, sharing turns us into active entities in the way that we treat information: we don’t just “find ourselves with it” in some passive way, but instead we can consciously decide to circulate it, or at least to store it for later use.

There are any number of tools to do this, each with their peculiarities. Some are a way of shouting something out to the world. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn allow you to share something you have read with your followers, who in turn will associate you with that information, and that they will value as having come from you, and because you have acted as a kind of news filter. At the same time, it functions as a personal repository, allowing you to recover the link, comment, or whatever easily at a later date.

By following you, and on the basis of what you share, somebody else might get an idea of what interests you. FOMO, Fear of Missing Out, becomes an incentive to follow those who share things that interest you, because as well as information, you acquire something else, a wa of measuring interest in you, your popularity, reactions, opinions, criteria…

There are other tools: Pinterest, with its boards, Delicious, which has been helping people to store and label anything of interest since 2003, or Evernote… All you need to do is install a button on your navigation bar and your use of the internet could become infinitely more useful.

Give it a try: something as simple as storing and sharing your interests could be the first step to realizing the full potential of the social networks. It’s a simple but powerful truth: we are what we share.

(En español, aquí)