I was reading a blog post today, and it occurred to me that the person writing it probably wouldn’t peg me as somebody who reads it, even though we know each other. And then I wondered if this would be creepy; if there’s a point where I should stop reading, or if it would be in bad taste for me to go through previous entries and keep reading them. People sometimes talk about facebook stalking, and while I know this isn’t strictly what they mean, it still brought up privacy, sharing and what an appropriate amount of ‘space’ should be.
I do find it a little odd when people I know mention something I wrote, when I wouldn’t expect they’d read it. There’s no reason I shouldn’t expect them read something I post, of course; I’m placing it in a public space to be read, and I want it to be read. Still, it’s disconcerting, to know that they know things about me that I don’t know about them. Whatever I write becomes my ‘official’ position, and everything that diverges from that (say, if I change my mind) becomes wrong, when it should be the other way around.
There’s been a sea change in a person’s sense of privacy in my lifetime. When I was younger it really was possible to present a stage-managed view of yourself to the world and – more importantly – have people believe it. Stonewalling was effective; you could just not talk about certain aspects of your life, and people who didn’t intersect that part of your life would never learn about it. I imagine the married man who, like Bruce Willis in whatever the movie was (possibly Untouchable), slips the ring off his finger on a plane and starts chatting up the woman sitting next to him.In the movie I’m thinking of he never acts on it, but it would be possible, of course, for him to strike up a relationship with someone, keep it a secret for years, and only have people learn about it at his death (a friend was telling me this story about a River Oaks heir). In the sense that these things have become more unlikely, it’s great that the world has become more open and honest.
I think one downside, though, is that everyone is so exposed to everyone else that it’s chilled conversation. A friend was saying she used to share her thoughts more openly before friends and colleagues joined Facebook. Now, she’s very circumspect when she writes, and puts everything through the wringer: how will it look before my boss, before people I work with, etc. People mock corporations (rightfully so) for being bland, yet most of the people I know, myself included, have started to fall into the same trap, for the same reason – so as not to offend, since we’re talking to a very large group of people. I don’t know that there’s a solution to this, or that there’s anything else to say about it, other than it happens, and I dislike it.
In any case, we’re revealing information about ourselves all the time, and not always in the way we want to. I’m sure there are incidental details of this post or other people’s posts, details which we dropped in at the last second that end up being much more interesting than the official message, whatever that is. One mistake that people used to make, back when it was possible to really tightly control information, was to think that they could present this very artificial, glossy image of themselves with no imperfections, and have other people believe it – or care. What really happens when you try too hard is that people simply lose interest in you, or your story – because it’s not real, and that comes through, or because it might be real but ends up being too boring.
Incidentally, I do enjoy reading other people’s posts, and whoever wants to can read all of mine. I know more than I’ll ever need to know about hundreds of people I’ll never meet, people with no ‘real’ connection to me, other than a fake media one. If I’ve met someone, even once – or if they’re met me, even once – we now share a ‘connection’ that’s stronger than that of many people I’ve never met who have whole life chapters floating around in my head. If a famous person gets that much space then somebody I know surely justifies more – and if they put something out there publicly, then that’s all the permission me or anyone should need to read it.