22 Oct 2010

Tweet Tweet: the sound of fear.

I started using Twitter a few days ago and I'm still fascinated, ánd terrified.
It's official now: my lurking days are over. I've been on Facebook for a while, I've got two blogs, and now I'm tweeting too.

On the one hand, it feels like these networks open up the world. So many people become approachable: artists, celebrities, fellow writers; men and women you've been following from a distance for years turn out to be real human beings who are willing to share their interests, and even respond to yours.

But at the same time, we put ourselves out there. We give away pieces of information that are all pretty innocent on their own, but will we remember in a few weeks, months or even years what we have already given away, and whether or not all those dots put together might paint a way too complete picture of who we are?
How come we lock our doors, hang curtains in front of our windows and use passwords to protect our computers, and then show so much of ourselves to people we barely know, or don't know at all?

Part of me tries to talk me into a false sense of security by arguing that there's nobody out there who cares, or who wishes me harm. But how could I be sure? Most of us, even when we try to live our lives without harming others, can be sure we've failed on a regular basis. We all have ex-boyfriends, -girlfriends, -husbands or -wives; fellow students, pupils, students or co-workers we might have pissed off, or people who are envious by nature, or plainly disturbed.

I hope this hiding-in-plain-sight doesn't come back to bite us in the arse.
At this point, I don't think it is even possible to estimate how much social networks are changing our world, and as with all kinds of evolution, this will have up- and downsides.

On the positive side: it's such an inspiring environment to be in. These tools bring people together, they connect us to human beings on the other side of the planet who sometimes feel closer to us than our next-door neighbours, and they enable new forms of art to emerge. Think of Eric Whitacre and his virtual choir performing Lux Aurumque, to name but one great example of what technology can help us achieve.

But beyond our need to express ourselves and share our stories and events with the world, have we forgotten about the darker side of humanity?

We cannot live our lives in fear, but are we prepared to face the consequences of this openness?

I'm still trying to work it out for myself. It's a tricky one for a writer...
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  1. I've been thinking about this too... Have put off joining twitter until a few days ago and been thinking about leaving facebook precisely for all the reasons that you mention above but then I think: Isn't that going against progress? Social networking is a part of people's daily lives now and I don't want to be the one in two decades time that doesn't know how to turn on the proverbial VCR...
    It's a conundrum!

  2. Thanks KC for pointing me to your article! I really like the point you make about putting the small bits & pieces of your digital traces together to paint a picture of you.
    The scary part is, that it is not necessarily the right picture. I mean, what we share online is just a part of us, not everything right? (I hope) so the picture is never complete.
    Next to that, a lot of people do not necessarily share the "truth" online so it might also be that the picture what is made is not reality at all... if in the wrong hands... potentially dangerous indeed.

    Great article!


  3. Good point! It is just a part, and as such not necessarily complete (or correct).

    I think our awareness of that is skewed, possibly because online media are still so new.

    I find interesting to see how something that's been written down or published acquires a believability of its own. Even when there is no filter and publishing just means clicking 'publish', 'send' or 'post comment'.


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