I recently had several friends join Facebook who swore they never would. One described himself as a “convert.” I guess his mom or wife sold him of its virtues.But with the advent and growing ubiquity of Facebook, it appears that social networking is here to stay, not just a passing fad.The real question is… what does having such an extensive online life and presence do to your real life? Will there be a time when your iLife takes over your realLife?
There are two great myths about the internet. 1) That the internet is anonymous, and 2) that the memory of the internet is fleeting. (There’s actually a third that the internet is free… but I’ll leave that one for another day)
Since we specialize in debunking such myths here at WhiteEyebrows, let me just break this one down for you…
1) You are identifiable on the internet. Like it or not, your internet service provider knows who you are and where you’ve been. They can be (and have been) forced to give up that information to the RIAA, the MPAA, and also the federal government.
2) The internet has a LONG, LARGE memory. I will illustrate with a story:
I once wrote a post on a newsgroup when I was 16 years old. You know, when you’re 16, life is just so small and simple, and mixed up. What I thought was a little joke, a pun, or play on words, other people found quite offensive. This was before Google, before online forums, before yahoo even.
One day I was busy at the new national past time, Googling myself, when I ran across this newsgroup post almost 10 years later. I was so embarrassed to read what I had so insensitively written, and slightly entertained at the response I evoked then.
Yes, the internet has a LONG memory, and each new advance in search and social networking will certainly build on the past, make ever more accessible those huge server farms and databanks bursting at the seams with the intimate details and private snapshots of your life.
And that’s the real problem, isn’t it? The internet only offers snapshots, glimpses into who we really are as people. Technology offers no essence of the human. Social networking sites can offer an opportunity for someone to form a perception of another person, but it can never fully and accurately reproduce the essence of me.
This is why online dating is so difficult. It requires either a high level of perceptiveness or delusion. It’s not that people try to be dishonest, it’s that they simply can’t ever be complete, or offer an entire picture.
I suppose it’s poetic justice that I’m pontificating about this on a blog, yet another forum for my inner beliefs and feelings to be made manifest on the web. Will I reread these posts in a few years and feel embarrased? Ashamed? What happens when we start electing presidents, congressmen, and school board members who have grown up online? Will someone’s myspace profile be considered evidence in a court of law? Will my politically moderate rantings on this blog prevent me from ever changing my positions to be more liberal or conservative, or will they be forever held against me?
This is an issue that celebrities and politicians have been dealing with for much longer. Where does their private life begin and their public life end? In a way, we are all entering their world, making our private lives much more public and accessible.
I’m not an internet alarmist. I don’t think we should shut down the web or anything. If we did that I’d have to quickly go find a lot of hobbies to replace my eHobbies, a real job to replace my technology job, a new side job to replace my eSideBusiness, and also a real pet to replace my ePet…
Seriously though, we need to enter this era of the iLife with great caution, and maybe be willing to cut each other some slack while we watch each other grow up online.