Look At Me Right Now! .com

June 10, 2014

Social media has ushered in – among other things – an age of staggering egocentricity. Any mook with a mobile phone can, with sickening ease and speed, announce anything to the world. Idealists regard this ability as the freedom of unregulated self-expression. In truth, not every aspect of every self is worth expressing. Too seldom does somebody with an intelligence quotient greater than the number of letters in the English alphabet announce something interesting about something interesting. Too often, social media is little more than an open sewer in which worthwhile self-expression suffocates in dim-witted self indulgence. The ability to tell anybody anything has fooled many into thinking anybody cares. Granted, those many probably did not require much effort to fool.

Why do we visit museums? To see worthwhile art. What if museums let slip standards and filled themselves with every cartoon from a third grader’s penmanship notebook? We would not visit. Or visit once, just for the novelty.

Once, publishing a thought to more than the number of subscribers to a neighborhood newsletter required a threshold level of intellect and  at least a nodding acquaintance with the language in which publication was attempted, and typically applying that aptitude to something worth the effort and cost of publication. This was a golden age in which “selfies” did not exist – or, if they did, were not inflicted upon readers like mustard gas. Discretion existed. It was understood that, just as restraint is the essence of taste, an absence of restraint proves an absence of taste.

When effort and cost ceased to constrain publication, so too did quality.

Worse than a simple absence of taste (which is a personal problem) is an overinflated sense of self-importance (which can present a public problem). Those unrestrained by taste in an age of social media are free to indulge a staggering egocentricity which insists people other than their parents care that they are a) sooo tired of waiting in line at Starbucks ha ha ha!, b) thanking all my peeps for the bestest birthday wishes!!! feel sooo loved, or c) omg so so so excited for Glee season finale!!!!!!!!!!

Cost and effort, the safeguards of publishing which once kept the thoughts of morons safely out of sight, are hence mourned.

This may be an ironic stance for a web log to take. The medium was once rightly derided by Joe Rago of the Wall Street Journal as the provence of “the blog mob” – a territory to be avoided. But drastic times, etc. Public discourse used to be a marketplace of ideas. Entry to the market meant having something worth selling. Nowadays, the cost of admission is a cartload of garbage with which to abuse shoppers.


100% Guaranteed Online Privacy Protector

December 19, 2011

Social networking monolith Facebook rolled out its “Timeline” application this week, allowing users to construct pictorial autobiographies online for the enjoyment and convenience of friends and family and complete strangers. The process involves organizing photographs posted and made available online, ranging from the recent to the prehistoric, and the depth with which the networking site can plumb its users’ digital pasts has privacy protectors off to the ramparts, cranking the alarms.

With Facebook’s Timeline application, they warn, private online data will be even less safe than it was before, when its only threats were Twitter, blogs, Google, Flickr, Photobucket, Tumblr, LinkedIn, MySpace, and the old-fashioned Facebook. The alarmists have, as pointed out in these pages once or twice before, overlooked – in their rush to the ramparts – the obvious solution:

If you don’t want people to know something about you, and don’t want them to be able to find it out, don’t put it online. Don’t post, tweet, chirp, hoot or do any other silly thing about it. Keep it to yourself. Contrary to apparently popular belief and reality television, not everybody needs – or wants – to know everything about everbody else, all the time.  

Accusing organizations like Facebook of invading our privacy, or paving the way for others to invade it, is a galactic abdication of personal responsibility. After all, Facebook didn’t put those embarassing New Year’s Eve photographs online for public consumption… we did. Making information available online and complaining when it’s found is like leaving the keys in your Mercedes and being surprised when it’s stolen.

Up In Arms, For No Reason

May 27, 2010

Social media empire Facebook is in hot water, again, for taking what critics allege are too many liberties with its users’ personal data. Specifically, the online networking site has seemed willing to provide, and may have provided, information about users’ tastes and preferences to advertisers.

Advertisers can use that information to target particular demographics more accurately. Patrons of Facebook are up in virtual arms (torches, pitchforks, and DSL modems angrily brandished) at the magnitude of this invasion of their privacy.

Problem is, Facebook users have no privacy to be invaded. By way of explanation, excuse a brief legal interlude: when deciding whether or not a warrant is required to search somebody, and especially to listen to or watch him without his knowledge, courts must determine whether or not that person has a “reasonable expectation of privacy” in the action that’s going to be spied on. If he can reasonably expect privacy in that action (say, bathing in his house with the blinds drawn and the door locked) then a warrant is required before police can watch him doing it. If the action is one in which he cannot reasonably expect privacy (say, talking loudly to a friend in a crowded bar), no warrant is required. Police can spy at will.

We have no reasonable expectation of privacy in information we willingly post to the internet. This is especially true when the information is posted via Facebook, the sole purpose of which is to help folks keep up with the likes, interests, and status of their friends. Facebook has long tracked its users’ friendships and social webs, using the information to suggest potential new online pals. Anybody with a Facebook account knows this. Further, it’s a rare news day that lacks for stories about identity theft, hacked government offices, cyber warfare, and the like. The internet is a glass house. Anybody can see in. And if you live in a glass house… don’t expect privacy.

Extinguish your torch, drop your pitchfork, and go back to your farm, irrate villagers. Put down the placards and cancel the pickets. If you’re concerned for your privacy, redirect all that righteously indignant energy into your keyboard: log into your Facebook account and, if there’s something there you’d rather keep private… delete it.

Imagine that.