When I first started using the internet, it was pretty new. Message boards were more like chat rooms, and very basic. I don’t think blogs were very well-known and the term social networking didn’t even exist. It was a place that you could be completely anonymous and as a result, when blogging did start to become popular, you could write and be completely unknown. In fact people have made a living out of it (remember the blogging escort who is now a published author?)
All you had to do was think up a good username (or ‘handle’ as it was then known) and you were away. It meant that you could freely write your feelings, rants and fears online, have them out there for anyone to see, but not fear the backlash of people you knew knowing what was really going on in your life. It was a great feeling to get things off your chest and even have replies from strangers. Your thoughts were just floating out there in the ether. Of course now all you have to do is Google a name, username or email address and there are sites which display all their social networks and blogs together on one page for all to see. That blissful anonymity is now gone.
There are a few people I know who regularly switch blogs, mostly because at some point in their sharing there’s been a point where they’ve gone to far and as a result fear their real identities being revealed. I have no problem with people knowing who I am, the general area I live, where I work. Some of my friends are baffled at this and find it very strange when people I only know from the internet visit me at work to say hi. The world’s a dangerous place, I know, but when people are being randomly stabbed near my work place anyway…… But I don’t mind people knowing who I am – isn’t the whole point of social networking allowing people to know who I am? It’s all about everyone having their famous for 5 minutes moment, right?
But – there is a line. A few years ago a woman was criticised, and rightly in my opinion, for tweeting about her child drowning in her pond or swimming pool. It wasn’t the content of her tweets so much as the fact that she was tweeting WHILE her child was drowning. Yes, people were there trying to help him at the time, but if your child was drowning wouldn’t you think the last thing on your mind would be to pull out your phone and share it with the world?
About a month ago a distant relative posted on Facebook that her Mother and Brother had been in a car accident and that she’d had to watch them being cut out of their car. They were all fine, and she wanted to thank her friends for their support. Yes it was a terrible time for them all, I’m not criticising her for sharing, but if it was me I would have picked up the phone and thanked my friends personally. Or if I’d HAD to use Facebook, written on their individual walls to thank them. But by writing it all as a status update, the whole incident was hugely dramatised and broadcasted. It seemed to me that it was a massive shout out to scream ‘look how dramatic and interesting I am’. I know that was not the intention in this case, but statuses or tweets like this really do read that way to me. Is it only me?
And it happens a lot. Mostly on Facebook I must say. It’s so easy to start writing things like that as a way to just get the feeling out there. But do people forget who their audience is? An update about an argument or a cryptic sentence or song lyric about a break up gets tongues wagging and questions asked. And surely that’s the intention? It’s the new century’s version of “Oh my God I’m so fat” in order to get the response of your good friends assuring you that “of course you’re not fat”.
Now I know I’m an incredibly cynical person. I always look for motives and both sides of situations, and usually go for the version that was the least obvious (I’ve got a strange brain), but it seems to me that the world is going into Over-Share. Write a journal (in an actual book), a private blog or just come out and say what you think! I’m a straight talker with a bad case of verbal diarrhoea. I can hold my tongue in most situations but I prefer to speak the truth. I hate dishonesty and secrets (they ALWAYS come out). But I do firmly believe in a time and a place and increasingly I’m seeing that the internet is being considered as both the correct time and forum – no matter what it is. Maybe we need to re-establish some kind of internet etiquette.
One day, in the future, if places like Twitter or Facebook aren’t around, the current generation of youths who have known no better, might have to have a face to face conversation with someone they care about and actually speak words about their feelings. And they will struggle hard. Social networking is stripping people of their skill to interact and makes it easier for people to make hard decisions and actions. How many people do you know who have found out their relationship is over because their partner has changed their online relationship status. Sad times. I wouldn’t be surprised if statistics will show a rise in marriages breaking up because people find it easier to share with their computers than their partners. Just a thought.
So I say to any of my readers out there, the next time you feel like blogging, tweeting of updating your status to provoke a response or create some drama, think about who you’re trying to reach. And if it’s that important, go speak to that person for real! It might be harder, but it’s going to make you a stronger person.