The other day I was reading Time Magazine’s profile of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and was intrigued when author Lev Grossman mentioned that Zuckerberg doesn’t really see the internet as a place where people can fictionalize their lives or simply create new personas, but a place where people openly share their lives. He even quotes Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who told CNBC that “If you have something you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”
This made me think about how much of our personal privacy we have given up. With social networks like Twitter, MySpace and Facebook, peoples’ lives are pretty much in the open. More recently, I heard about Foursquare, a site where users share their exact locations to friends (I’ve used that one sporadically, since I haven’t yet figured out its point). Now, everyone seems open to sharing pretty much everything about their lives, from opinions to candid photos and other things… one magazine (can’t remember which – I think New York) quipped that today’s frat party photos might be used against a presidential candidate in 30 years or so.
Some of the information out there isn’t exactly volunteered. For instance, a few years back I was chatting about Google with some co-workers and someone mentioned that you can find a lot about people on that popular search engine. One quipped that there was nothing about him online, but I googled his name – and sure enough, there was his name in a college reunion page and in a local association he was a member of. Another said the same thing and I found out where she went to church. Needless to say, both were shocked that I was able to unearth that information so easily. But I must admit that these were people with unusual names, so it wasn’t exactly hard to find out. A search of my own name renders a lot of results – but that is because I’ve been publishing for so long.
There are people who I know that are intensely private and who go through great lengths to keep their information out of the Internet (or from anything else, for that matter). Being a writer, it’s hard to be very private – especially because I write a lot about things that I have experienced (travel, readings, etc… that is part of my life), Some people around me are a little annoyed at my openness, so I try to be at least a little coy about my own life… to a point.
But the fact is that social networks like Facebook are definitely changing the way we interact with each other. What this kind of change might bring is still a big question that will be answered with time. But don’t be surprised if people start oversharing a bit… heck, in Japan Facebook users even include their blood types!