On my recent assignment with CESO in the Philippines, I made it a priority to give people I worked with a voice; appreciatively inquiring into their stories. I posted articles, including pictures and videos, to this blog. All the while, in the back of my mind were questions like Shouldn’t some of this stuff be kept private? Am I peeping in on what should stay personal? How much information do I need to share online to make a connection, engage another, build trust?
Questions around online sharing, and building trust and relationships, are being asked (and answered by social media mavens e.g., Trust Agents) a lot these days. With the ascendancy of social media technologies and applications, each week brings another way to share information. What pace should one proceed down the sharing path?
I got some further insight about online sharing on reading The Peep Diaries: How We’re Learning to Love Watching Ourselves and Our Neighbours. The author is Hal Niedzviecki, a journalist and social critic living in Toronto. Peep culture is reality tv, Youtube, Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, chatrooms, over-the-counter surveillance technology, and the like. The author lived all things Peep for a year, and his experiences are central to the book. Here’s some interesting ideas and questions Hal raises in his book:
- Why we Peep. Is it for a virtuous search for connection and shared meaning or is it a vicious, pop-fueled desire for attention and recognition in which, your identity is your product?
- Online sharing restores our loss of community? Have we lost our historical connections we once had through community? Is this the reason we are so eager to share online; to be noticed by our friends, families, peers, and authority figures?
- Privacy vs. community. Does giving up online privacy = re-affirmation of community denied by our current lifestyles; e.g., it’s safer to stay at/near home?
- Privacy vs. connection. People care less about privacy and more about connection. If we think we’re exchanging life experiences, if we’re feeling like we’re tapping into our instinctual craving for meaningful social interaction and reaffirming our sense of (tribal) existence, we’re unlikely to worry about our privacy.
- Safety over surveillance. If people have to choose, they’ll take safety over worrying about surveillance; e.g., whose watching them.
- Fear of anonymity. Do we embrace Peep because we’re terrified of disappearing without a trace? Are our YouTube videos our legacy?
- Homeless person has more privacy than you or I! The homeless person has more privacy than your average homeowner. There is nothing I can’t learn about you. The basic building blocks of your character, your beliefs, your activities, your physical location, your picture it’s all available online!
- ‘Transparency’ is just corporate speak? Is lauding transparency, flexibility and interactivity; e.g., by asking people to contribute /vote on product development, just another opportunity for the organization to collect consumer information and market?
Peep is a hybrid phenomenon. It’s a combination of hyper-individualist excess, cutthroat capitalist self-preservation, longing for lost community, and our inherited hardwired need to make sense of life through narrative. These contradictory interests mostly end up cancelling each other out.
The moral of giving up our privacy? There isn’t a clear one. We’re in a grey zone.
What’s your view?
Remember a time when letting your child venture outside the home, without supervision, was an ok thing to do? How much do you know about your neighbour? How is living the online, indoor life changed your relationships with others in the community? How is increased online sharing impacting your values and beliefs?
Photo credit: showbizsuperstar