Here’s what I want you to do. Take out your iPhone or iPad but don’t turn it on. If you have a modern glass-screened Mac this will work for you as well.
Now, with it still off, look directly into the screen and notice what you see. If you are looking correctly the most prominent thing you should notice is your reflection. Not a perfect one, mind you. The screen is not a mirror. That said, there is a part of you in there.
If it is a touch enabled device, you likely also notice your fingerprints and smudges. Remnants of your presence. These are a reflection of a different sort. Yet a reflection in, perhaps, a more personal and telling way. A knowing eye could likely deduce from those smudges and marks if you turn it on frequently or use one app more than another. There’s traces of you in there.
I would also argue that when we actually put these devices to their intended use that it is this reflection we seek. The places we go on the web. The things that we buy. The work that we do. The intentions of our task list. The games that we play. It is the parts of us in there, the reflection of ourselves, that make these more compelling.
In social networks this is especially true. The person complaining about the traffic. The friend repeating the funny comments of her coworkers. That guy you admire talking about failure being as important (if not more so) than success. That girl having a really bad day. You have had similar thoughts, experiences, desires, goals, wishes, hopes, failures, and success. You see your reflection in them. You see a part of you there.
And, after all, isn’t this what we want to see in our most personal of tools? A reflection of us. No matter how muddled or imperfect. We want to leave a mark. Some trace that we were there. That we deserve to be there. That we belong. That we are not alone. That, there, we are.