Oscars always remind us why we love the movies. And while not everyone gets to be Angelina Jolie or even Jesse Eisenberg, we can pretend that we are living inside a movie, thanks to the emergence of platforms and tools that turn our lives into movie-reels.

83rd Academy Awards, Telecast
Trey Ratcliff, creator of 100 Cameras and I

Trey Ratcliff, creator of 100 Cameras and I

The Oscars are over, but we will all be talking about the winners — and the losers — for days and weeks to come. Why? Because we love movies. We love movie stars. What’s not to love? They have the drama, the glamour, the shiny bright lights and, not to mention, fantastic amounts of money. No wonder everyone wants to be like them!

And while not everyone gets to be Angelina Jolie or even Jesse Eisenberg, we can pretend that we are living inside a movie. Today we have easy and free access to platforms that help spread the word about the movies of our lives — quickly. The Internet makes easy work of distribution.

The concept of “followers” and “subscribers” is another way of saying “audience,” and by sharing carefully crafted words, a handful of shared links and artistically snapped photos and videos, what we’re doing is essentially performing for this audience. We are all Lady Gaga — be it for one person, or a million people.

Strange? Trey Ratcliff, a celebrated photographer, author and creator of one of the top-selling iPhone apps, 100 Cameras and I, doesn’t think so, pointing to the photo slide show at the top of our Facebook page as a signpost of a society that’s making its own movie reels.

I Want My MeTV

Before I met Ratcliff, I always thought millions of us were living inside our own weird version of reality television. But reality television can be ugly and sometimes too stark. Movies are curated, edited and have a sense of polish. That is one of the main reasons why Ratcliff believes apps like his and Hisptamatic are selling briskly on the iTunes store.  “The filters can turn ordinary into extraordinary,” Ratcliff said.

To Trey’s point, many of the photos I take are actually pretty mundane, but thanks to filters, they become magical. The picture of clouds that’s as flat as a week-old bottle of Pellegrino takes on a wistful look just by adding a filter. The 8MM app can turn a clip of a boring, sleepy tech conference into a scene out of a 1970s Bollywood movie.

These tools add a certain mystique and drama to these photos and our lives, making them look more interesting, more like movies. It’s perhaps one of the main reasons why we’ve seen Facebook quickly become the greatest repository of photos — memories, if you may — on the web. “Not everyone can write, draw or paint, but everyone can press a button,” said Ratcliff.

Platforms, Platforms, Platforms

I don’t think we should be surprised at all by these developments; it’s part of the bigger cultural shift. In our 21st-century society, we all want to stand out and get attention. Narcissistic? Perhaps, but we’re living in this century and defining the ethos for the new Internet-connected age as we go along.

I’m not a philosopher, so I’ll live these heavier matters to people with a higher intelligence quotient. What I can tell you is that the technology companies that benefit from these big trends are those who provide platforms for sharing our lives.

SixApart’s MoveableType, Flickr and Blogger were early proponents of sharing, but they never really got to realize their full potential because they grew up in an era limited by relatively low broadband penetration and lack of mobility-driven computing.

Subsequent platforms — YouTube, WordPress (see disclosure) and Tumblr — have had more success, thanks to faster, cheaper broadband connections. Twitter and Facebook are the big winners of this sharing.

The emergence and growing popularity of San Francisco-based Instagr.am (over three million signees since its launch last year) is yet another sign that in the end, this cultural shift benefits the platform providers.

Next time you are thinking about building a product, evaluating a company or just wondering why early adopters are so crazy about Instagr.am or Quora, keep in mind we’re playing a role in a movie: edited, directed and starring us.

App of the day:

The Internet Wishlist. My app of the day isn’t really an app. Instead, it’s a website that’s a collective list of apps and websites the Internet people are wishing for. It will take you less than five minutes to scan this website, which collates masterful and moronic ideas all in the same place. You should follow its creator, Amrit Richmond on Twitter. (Via Laughing Squid.)

What to read on the web:

Disclosure: Automattic, maker of WordPress.com, is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. I am also a venture partner at True.

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  2. Arnold Waldstein Tuesday, March 1, 2011

    Thnx for this really insightful post.

    It inspired me to rethink the idea of social filters in the video chat and conferencing space, especially with the launch of Rob Glaser’s newco, SocialEyes.

    “Turning the ordinary into the extraordinary’ is a great phrase. I borrowed it and attributed it to you and this post.

    My post is “Social filters turning the ordinary into the extraordinary” @ http://bt.io/GkjQ

    1. Thanks Arnold. Glad you liked it.

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    “In our 21st-century society, we all want to stand out and get attention.” Some of the introverts among us (myself included) would need to wrap that statement in a big blanket of qualifiers.

    Celebrity culture may be the baseline, but is there no achievement unless there’s accompanying paparazzi (or flocks of followers, or an avalanche of likes)? If we want authenticity and trust from others, how do we get there while curating ourselves into a “personal brand”?

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