I’ve been thinking quite a bit about privacy and divulging personal information online this summer. With apologies to Ira Glass, whose excellent television version of This American Life on Showtime is a revelation-Season 2 us available On Demand right now, I’ll break my thoughts into Acts.
Heart of Glass
It may have started when I read Emily Gould’s confessional in May 25th’s New York Times Magazine.
In it, she offers ambivalent (20/20 hindsight) feelings about her experience as an editor at Gawker, the glee of being recognized as a pseudo-celebrity in cyber-savvy circles, and the fine art of over-sharing. And how it complicated her personal life.
The Gawk is Dying
“But is that really what’s making people blog? After all, online, you’re not even competing for 10 grand and a Kia. I think most people who maintain blogs are doing it for some of the same reasons I do: they like the idea that there’s a place where a record of their existence is kept — a house with an always-open door where people who are looking for you can check on you, compare notes with you and tell you what they think of you. Sometimes that house is messy, sometimes horrifyingly so. In real life, we wouldn’t invite any passing stranger into these situations, but the remove of the Internet makes it seem O.K.”
I was transfixed by the piece-and somewhat taken aback the rather sharp criticisms of it.
I found the piece to be honest, open, and also sufficiently contrite. In her conclusion, she confesses:
I understand that by writing here about how I revealed my intimate life online, I’ve now revealed even more about what happened during the period when I was most exposed. Well, I’m an oversharer — it’s not like I’m entirely reformed.
What got me thinking, however was what followed: “But lately, online, I’ve found myself doing something unexpected: keeping the personal details of my current life to myself. This doesn’t make me feel stifled so much as it makes me feel protected, as if my thoughts might actually be worth honing rather than spewing.
By waiting over two months to respond, I’ve honed my thoughts on this.
Facebook. I log on (as I type this) to learn that: “Eugene Hernandez is still in the Hamptons. Settling in for a Peggy Siegal evening: “Bottle Shock” dinner and a movie… ” and “Bryan Wendorf is now in a new apartment” and “Matt Dentler is gonna go to Chrissy and Ashley’s new place to have beers on their deck” and “Heidi Van Lier has finally finished writing the scenes she’s shooting on Monday….”
I had heard others complain about Facebook’s security issues before. It wasn’t until I read a specific study published in the Washington Post in early June about the dangers of adding applications, I began to have serious reservations about the Big Brother implications of Facebook, and its social networking ilk.
“She [Adrienne Felt, who recently studied Facebook security at the University of Virginia] examined 150 of the most popular Facebook applications to find out how much data could be gathered. Her research, which was presented at a privacy conference last month, found that about 90 percent of the applications have unnecessary access to private data. Once the information is on a third-party server, Facebook can’t do anything about it,” she said.”
As the Patriot Act erodes our civil liberties, I am shocked that a younger generation routinely forfeits vast amounts of private knowledge voluntarily, just so we can play online poker, or find out what Beatles song we most resemble today…I am reminded of The Lives Of Others, and how a contemporary version of such a film would be impossible, because some folks are willing to let the world know they just got fucked hard in the shower on the Facebook feed.
It’s ghetto Scrabulous
Not to be overly paranoid, but these thoughts lead me to excise just about all of my superfluous applications except for Scrabulous (which has been disabled for US and Canadian users until further notice).
Irecently added Scrabble (Mark “Hussein” Rabinowitz is NOT happy: he’s wondering if the new Scrabble Beta could possibly SUCK any more than it already does) to make up for the loss. But nothing else…so STOP sending me flowers and karma and hatching puppies applications because I plan to ignore them.
I also decided to rip down everything from Myspace (what’s that?) and close out accounts on other insidious sites like LinkedIn, Plaxo, Pulse, etc.
In fact, a record of this exists, on Facebook. I wrote something on Eugene’s Wall about this on June 15th. I wrote “i am convinced that none of this is secure…and i’m pulling down like 99% of my personal information from this, myspace, linkedin, plaxo, etc. etc.” in response to an apology Eugene had posted. It seems someone hacked his account and sent a bizarre missive to the world.
In this corner of Facebook, my random thought lives on. I realize, to those who stumble across it, that II sound like a paranoid Ron Paul supporter, or a Riley Martin fan.
Biaviian Symbols: or the Life of RIley
What is it that makes us WANT to let everyone with a computer, an internet connection and opposable thumbs know what we’re up to? Why do we HAVE to share to this degree? And what does it mean that we are willing to give so much away, for free?
Yes, but how long will it take a chimpanzee to type Hamlet 2?
In general, I’m cheeky when I post my “Gabe is…” thoughts on Facebook. Though I do admit, that I’ve provided truthful updates as to my whereabouts, wherefores, and what’s happenin’s, on occasion.
The dream has gone/But the baby is real
I catch myself sharing in my own profile which I think is pretty spare…I’ve included my birthday, which I believe is accessible in other places. In my photo, I’m holding a “onesie” with a Moz decal. Some have messaged me asking about the baby, due in October (not November…) Just too damn cute. I’m reminded of Emily’s mea culpa: “Well, I’m an oversharer — it’s not like I’m entirely reformed.”
My wife, Trin writes a blog now. She uses it to chronicle her pregnancy–a 21st century baby’s diary of sorts. But her thoughts, and our private lives are (in theory) open to the world. When she first started writing, she told me she didn’t think anybody would read it. Or would be interested enough to read it. Then people started asking questions, and rather than bombarding everyone with updates, we started referring them to the blog. Even after doing so, she posted an entry called “TMI Alert” dealing with my bathroom habits…She’s also posted a survey about the gender of the baby (SPOILER ALERT: it’s a boy) and then posted a survey about circumcision…and then I began to worry that a rather private matter we’ve been discussing is now open for public debate…and that everyone will wonder who won the debate when the time comes. (SPOILER: In a recent post: 2 Major Decisions, she is leaning toward the European solution…)
I enjoy her blog quite a bit, and I’m actually envious of her ability to write so freely, and openly. It’s ironic–because there are times when I’ve learned about things ONLY by reading the blog. It’s become a requirement. I also look forward to having the content reformatted, printed and hard bound…it will serve as a living record of this remarkable time. TMI moments and all.
But I also “get” it. How it’s easier to post something to the internet than it is to confess something intimate to someone close. Emily Gould wrote about this in her piece. And how it drove her soon to be ex- boyfriend crazy.
My mother also writes a blog now, too. Her blog is linked from Trin’s blog, as is my borther’s wife’s blog. We now all communicate (in passive aggressive ways) through our blog posts.. I’m more passive of course, because 95% of the time, my discourse has nothing to do with the personal.
She fancies herself a mix of David Sedaris and Erma Bombeck.
In the Sedaris universe, is it not the child who has been afforded the liberty of ruminating about the family in pithy, witty, fantastical, and exaggerated ways?
Is it possible when your mother blogs, that blogs have jumped the shark? Are we going to need a bigger boat?
I am worried that blogs are fast becoming a substitution for something else.
In the case of a diary/journal, it is a faulty replacement. A diary had always been a place to unload your private thoughts for future personal reflection, not a place to air them out for all to read.
As journalists, bloggers lack the credibility and authority of a properly edited (and vetted) piece, to say nothing of professional ethical journalistic standards.
As critics, bloggers (cloggers) do not possess the seasoned expertise of professional writers. Few devote the serious time and thought to publishing a review. As a rule, professionals make a point of seeing most (if not all) films released so as to remain current. There is also the matter of standards, and ethics, and the like. Those who make a living writing are less susceptible to corrupt influence of studios, junkets, and SWAG and other shiny objects. A blogger needs only an opinion, pointer finger, and an iPhone. One without a salary may also be willing to accepts gifts etc.
Blogs are a perfect place for commentary ABOUT other things…it’s so easy to pop in a link, or a photo, or a clip. And offer a little something new about the topic, a spin or reflection. They are ideally suited for personal opinion about something–to recommend an experience, a show, some music, etc. Or to recount or report on an event. This is not criticism per se…
Finally, I believe that blogging is the domain of the hobbiest/amateur. Professionals–which is to say people who MAKE A LIVING from the blog postings—should be designated as pros.
I shared my thoughts about this, at length, in an interview with Sujewa for his DIY doc about bloggers. I look forward to viewing the final product when he finishes.