Online self vs. real self

After I wrote this column about Facebook I found I had extra bonus thoughts so I decided to put at least a few of them here.

When Gawker Media announced that all employees we were required to have Facebook profiles, in 2007, some of my coworkers were decidedly un-thrilled at this encroachment on their private lives.  Others shrugged; they’d already been on Facebook for ages.  I was somewhere between the two camps — I’d lived through the heyday of Friendster, I didn’t feel a pressing need to publish a list of my favorite bands again — so I put up a perfunctory profile, leaving lots of information fields blank. I didn’t even start posting status updates or playing Lexulous (then Scrabulous) til that summer, when I changed my relationship status  to “single.”  By the time I changed my Employer field to “self/none,” a few months later, a lot of other things had changed too; I won’t bore you with the details but boy are they ever available online.

During this period I learned, the hard way, that people will disperse and twist any available morsel of information about you if that’s what they want to do.  But I also learned that having more personal information available, not less, works as a defense strategy.  If you’re consistent and transparent in your online and offline life, you have nothing to fear from exposure.  It didn’t feel great to have transparency thrust upon me, but this was how I learned that being the same person across all platforms is actually the only sane way to use the Internet.

I was reminded of this personal learning curve during the last few weeks, as “online privacy” once again became the controversy of the moment. Facebook rolled out new privacy settings last month and once again they were lambasted for making lots more data from their 500 million users more available than ever. Facebook has since revamped the settings in response to the chorus of panicky criticism, making it slightly easier for its users to figure out how to go into their profiles and tweak settings so that they can at least maintain the illusion that not everything they post is available to anyone who wants to see it (as a former gossip gossip reporter I know how easy it is to ferret out information from behind the flimsy wall of a limited-access online profile.)

As the skirmishes between Facebook and its critics continue,  I think the most interesting part of the debate isn’t whether Facebook has gone too far; it’s why people still care so much about “privacy.”

Or do we care?  A new site, YourOpenBook, searches the status updates of all Facebook users who’ve — purposely or unwittingly –  left the new default public settings in place.  “I’m gay” and “feeling horney [sic]” are the most popular searches, last time I checked, and the results they pull up would seem to indicate that more and more people care less and less about who knows that they’re currently masturbating.  And only 30,000 people actually quit Facebook as a result of the privacy changes.

But alarmist privacy panic is always politically useful, especially for conservatives who want to rile people who probably only use Facebook to remember their grandchildren’s birthdays: in the California attorney general’s race, where former chief Facebook privacy officer Chris Kelly is being attacked by his opponent for “releasing your private information.”  Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers is mulling a congressional hearing on the matter, and other lawmakers have said they believe Facebook shouldn’t make users’ information public by default.
While it might be tempting to presume that there’s some “silent majority” out there that cares about this, I think it’s likelier that there’s a not-particularly-internet-savvy group of people who misunderstand the issues at hand and only think they care because they’ve been led to equate online openness with identity theft.   For people who’ve been online for a while, the real issue is that it’s simultaneously becoming less socially acceptable and less practically possible to maintain separate online and offline selves.

For people who came of age online, keeping a username or avatar or online persona – “SmileyGirl323” “BigJimDorito,” etc. – separate from one’s meatspace self long ago began to seem natural.  Well, sorry, Smileyetc, but now it’s time for those divided personality-halves to merge.  It’s time to stop letting our online selves get away with things our “real selves” would never do.   It’s time to stop posting photos we wouldn’t want everyone to see and typing things we wouldn’t want everyone to know we’ve said.  If you want to keep a nasty thought or embarrassing anecdote private, there’s an easy, 100% guaranteed safe way to do that, and it’s not a new app or functionality — it’s Internet abstinence.  If you’re not comfortable letting the world see what you’re really like, you shouldn’t be online at all.

Certainly there’s a risk involved in being ourselves online.  “What about my job?” I can hear you saying.  “I don’t want my middle school students to know about my S&M hobby.” “I don’t want my wife to know how often I comment on Twilight messageboards.”  “I don’t want my employer to know about the batty all-caps comments I leave on Salon articles.”  I feel your pain, certainly.  It was remarkably un-fun for me to have excerpts of my stupid, besotted secret blog published in the New York Post and the New York Times three years ago. But I’m glad it happened, because now I know that I need to make sure that everything I write and make available online is something I’d be okay, even if begrudgingly okay, with sharing with the world.

45 comments to Online self vs.”real self”

  • Becky

    I don’t agree. And I’m an internet savvy liberal.

    In general, the privacy issue is important, and it’s not primarily a conservative tool. Roe v. Wade was legally a right-to-privacy decision.

    Regarding the internet, I need a way to participate online without providing information to the freak who’s been semi-stalking me for 10 years. Every time I post something under my own name, I hear from him.

    My situation is less serious than those who really have to hide, like women who have escaped violent relationships. Are they just not supposed to use the internet at all?

    I know someone who’s really digging can find out whatever they want, but deterrents filter out the less-dedicated (much like car alarms.)

    Regarding Facebook, I think Mark Zuckerburg’s thrust towards “an open internet” is not some noble goal but to make money. I’m sure you’ve read how he referred to his users as “dumb fucks” for trusting him with their info. I think that’s the most honest statement he ever made.

    I’m glad you made lemonade out of the shitty experience of your blog posts going public. But don’t assume your conclusion applies to everyone else.

  • emily

    I agree with you, “Becky,” that Facebook is in the business of making money off its users’ data; a lot of people have written great things about how their corporate doublespeak about “openness” and “connectedness” is a smokescreen for the fact that Facebook’s users are not customers but products. That’s not what I was writing about here, though it would have been good to mention it.

    I don’t think either of our situations is representative of everyone. The vast majority of people who are anonymous online don’t have your ironclad great excuse; they need to stop.

  • I find this hugely interesting; I’m sure you can see why. So, is there a new, ultra-anon net available to all the kinks and freaks we’d rather hide from our 9-5 selves with families, classes, parents? Or are those parts already peopled with masked, I won’t ask if you won’t sympaticos?

  • emily

    also @Becky Thank you for pointing out both those things; you are absolutely right to do so.

  • this reminds me of something I used to hear a lot from my dad, who was a corporate lawyer for a largish computer company and once had to send a memo out to tens of thousands of employees saying this because people were apparently downloading lots of porn onto their work computers (this was the mid-late 90’s)

    “Do not ever write anything in an e-mail[/online] that you wouldn’t write on a postcard. There is no envelope. We can see everything you do.”

    Because of this, I’ve always generally assumed that if I write about someone online they will see it at some point/if I write about myself my family and ex-boyfriends will see it at some point (this said, I do have an old livejournal that not even I can find anymore…) although I do make exceptions for a few especially internet-unsavvy people (and that is probably a mistake.)

  • Becky

    And I agree with you that many people use the relative anonymity of the internet to be much huger douchebags than they might in real life. I also agree that there are people who need a shove to be more open and stop hiding behind manufactured shields.

    I’ll add one more example of the personal safety issue: The closeted gay kid who’s still financially dependent on his/her homophobic parents; although as soon as s/he isn’t I say come out.

    However, as to the “vast majority” who don’t fall into these categories, here is Zuckerburg as quoted in the book The Facebook Effect (although he doesn’t make the personal safety exceptions):

    “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”

    I don’t agree with this; my feelings are expressed pretty well by this piece:

    “Facebook appears to be deliberately and systematically making it harder and harder for people to vary their self-presentations according to audience. I think that this broad tendency (if it continues and spreads) impoverishes public life.”

    You’ve been totally articulate about why you do agree; I’m just trying to present an argument which is neither faux-alarmist, conservative, or primarily about identity theft.

  • katiechasm

    But what about the teachers/judges/professionals who want to stay anonymous when they leave comments? Should they just totally sublimate their urge to post political opinions or go on S&M sites? Or should they quit their jobs and become writers, who can say whatever they want on the internet and not suffer a career fallout?

    Katie Chisholm

  • karion

    I understand your rationalization and explanation for your situation, but think the analysis is applicable primarily to those in the fishbowl in which you swim. There are quite a lot of similarly situated fish in that mighty small fishbowl and it seems that it becomes a hazard of the environment to not be able to see outside of it.

    Everyone has their favorite analogies for online privacy/profile management, and here I will use mine. Conversations I have off the clock, at cocktail parties or dinner with friends? I value the private nature of those conversations. I pay attention to who is listening and modify my comments accordingly. I have an expectation that if, for example, I opine negatively on Sarah Palin, or tell an anecdote of a highly personal nature, the people with whom I am speaking will treat those comments accordingly. Rightly or wrongly, I don’t expect them to be shared verbatim with anyone not present in the conversation.

    Stretching this analogy to Facebook, if I tweak the settings right, I have a reasonable expectation of who is listening to my conversation. Just as there could be listeners-on at the cocktail party or at the neighboring table at dinner, I realize that there are certain determined folks who can listen in and, mindful of that, I assume the risk and tailor my comments accordingly.

    What pisses people off about Facebook is the continual moving of the privacy goal posts, so that your expectations of privacy must necessarily and constantly evolve. I realize that Facebook is a for-profit enterprise and that all that networky infrastructure goodness requires revenue, but I think the call for transparency and consistency should be directed at their privacy policy, not at the users.

    As for profiles elsewhere on the internet, my strained cocktail party analogy still works, at least in theory. I usually am commenting somewhere with an established, albeit faceless, community, and, using the same profile/avatar/login, I am reasonably accountable for the things I say to that community. I don’t accept that I should be accountable for those comments to employers, or to anyone not present in the community at the time of the conversation.

    I don’t think that anyone is obligated to leave an indelible trail of breadcrumbs, tying their name to every online conversation they have, particularly when the conversation is not gathered upon commonalities of personal identities, but rather a shared interest in the topic. The name, gender, occupation and other identifying information of the opinion-sharer is just not germane to most online conversations. More often than not, that personal information is only relevant to someone seeking to discredit the opinion-giver, after failing to do so on the substance of the opinion offered.

  • This is about the most perfect take on privacy and the internet I’ve read to date. From almost day one, going back to my days on Prodigy and Applelink and CompuServe (I’m never going to get a date after posting this!) I ALWAYS assumed that pretty much every thing I did or said online would someday be attributed to me in a way that would be comically easy to find. So I always used my real name on everything and I never did anything online that I would be ashamed for my mom to see. If I had a secret life at all I, um…kept it secret! I didn’t post under handles or pseudonyms or through anon servers and I never let my “dark side” overwhelm the little bit of common sense I possess. It still amuses me to no end when public figures are caught with their pants down because of some recovered text messages or because they took their laptop in for service without wiping the drive (who’d want to see MY files? Right!) I think Emily has it right. This whole “privacy-quake” is really just the demarcation of the line passing between generations, separating those who “grew up” on the internet and those who still think of it as a bunch of tubes.

  • Jem

    As proven by Facebook, both information given and systems are open to abuse. I could go on right now spend 3 bucks and pull up your address, or photos of someone’s kids. That is not okay.

    People needing to keep professional selves separate from social selves withstanding, there isn’t such a clear delineation between online and offline selves, people don’t act the same at 9am on a Monday in work mode as they do at 2am on a Friday in drunk bar mode in any realm.

  • reem

    I was with you until the end–well, I’m still with you, but the end made me think. I have a bad habit of reading comments on news websites and usually being astounded by how crazy-hateful they are (a good example is the Boston Globe). Nobody is deserving of any sympathy it seems, and the commenters are just insane. And what’s astounding to me is that maybe I work with some of these people and that they are pretty normal and then when they go online and have the power of anonymity they become lunatics. It’s beyond creepy. But if you’re someone who is into kink or having sex with stuffed animals or wondering what a herpes outbreak looks like or you need support because you’ve got HIV and don’t have anyone to communicate with in real life–it makes sense to use another name, no? And you can have decent conversations while doing so, it seems. So, I mean, I get it and I do believe in having a consistent self (personally I think my head would explode if I was someone in real life, and then a crazy person online), but you can also have a consistent self while posting anonymously–it all depends on WHY you’re posting anonymously. Your boss or family doesn’t need to know abt superpersonal stuff(and
    let’s be serious, people could face job discrimination or other fallouts bc of stuff like this) and you also shouldn’t have to forego
    being in a community that’s accepting of whatever your issue may be or feeling bad or weird because you write under a
    username. The Internet is a lot of things, including a safe space for people who feel shunned by real world society.

  • emily

    I guess it is insanely idealistic to be able to imagine a future world where we would all know so much about each other’s foibles and mistakes and kinks and weirdnesses that nothing could be so shocking that it would render us undateable or unemployable. But yeah, ok, that future isn’t now, and anonymity will come in handy til it exists. I still can’t help but think that a lot of people who “hide” their kinks and idiosyncracies in online realms want to be found out, on some level, just because they almost can’t be ignorant of how easily that happens, at this point.

  • @Katie & Karion: I think your comments underscore Emily’s point. You both have lovely opinions about what the internet SHOULD be (and, to a large extent, I share them) rather than what it IS. Therefore I would say to you, Karion, that’s it’s almost charmingly naive to think that, no matter how much tweaking Facebook does, it can even SET the goalposts, let alone MOVE them. You have too much faith in technology! I think Emily would say, “Listen, get over it. Stop expecting the internet to respect your privacy or cater to your desire to anonymously satisfy your predilection for tentacle porn. It don’t work that way.” Maybe in some utopian future the internet will become a secure, cozy space with NSA-level encryption of every comment we make on every blog, a place where we really CAN control our own destinies, but that day is still on the horizon. We ain’t there yet. For now…lalala…you can’t hide. I see you! I SEE YOU!

  • Elaine Corden

    By this logic then, Emily, should elections also be public? Why have voting booths then? Shouldn’t everyone just be open about their political views, or just you know, not get to vote?

    The assumption that you make here is so riddled with middle-class privilege that it’s almost comical. As if everyone is in the same position of power that you are, where they are to share their beliefs in an open forum with no consequences. A personal example that’s completely different from the one offered above (which you summarily dismissed as an anomaly rather than acknowledging that it might be quite common): I used to work for a company founded by a born-again Christian. He was quite tolerant, and there were openly gay, openly atheist, and openly skeptical people who worked at the company. However, if I went online and mocked people who don’t believe in evolution under my real name, I would certainly have been pushed out of the company. Why? Because it was disrespectful to him. It’s not that he didn’t know his employees did not share his beliefs but openly mocking them on the Internet under my real name, as a de facto representative of his company’s employees, would have made him look to be a fool who tolerated disrespectful employees. Not exactly the image a CEO would want to project to investors. To be sure, if I had gone that route, he would have felt pressure to fire me, whether or not he agreed with my right to express my beliefs online under my own name.

    Why did I work for someone whose belief system was different than mine? Well, it was the first job I had got in my field for two years, and I needed to work to avoid bankruptcy. I also did not find him objectionable- he treated me with a basic level of respect, and I afforded him the same courtesy. I also believed in the work the company was doing – it had no religious bent.

    I’m sorry you think everyone has the liberty to run around tying their identities to their ideologies. They do not. And to want to shut people who do not enjoy the same privilege as you out of political and social discourse on the Internet is the worst kind of baseless, classist argument I’ve heard made on this issue.

  • Jamie Smith

    Hello. I just learned about you from reading your article in Newsweek. This issue has been on my mind a lot recently and I really appreciated reading your thoughts on this.
    I’m happy to find and look forward to reading.


  • emily

    @Elaine Corden It’s impossible for me to take seriously anyone who accompanies her dissenting opinion with a condescending fake apology. “I’m sorry you …” No you’re not. Own it.

  • Tabitha

    People, calm down. Okay. So. Yes, there are assholes. Yes, there are exceptions. Yes, we are Facebook’s products, not customers. Yes. Yes. Yes.

    But, personally, I’m with Emily. I too grew up alongside the burgeoning internet – alongside those “Avarices” and “CutePie123″ and “Woodras” – and, you know what? They’re dying off. At least in my age group. They seem to be more a product of our parents’ fears that some creepy dude was going to spot our real names in some chatroom and, etc. We’re now all adults (at least in age) and kind of, sort of used to the fact that we put private information up online.

    As the internet is a new thing (relatively), the problem now is coming with jobs and such being able to use information, ideologies, opinions, photos, etc. against people. In my opinion, if you’re a great teacher, does it matter that you are also into swinging? No. It matters if you say crazy racist things, — so where does the line fall? (I don’t believe in one can be intolerant of someone else’s intolerance; I think it’s hard for us not to set everything into a dichotomy of black/white, good/bad, private/public, applicable/not – you see what I mean?)

    (Also, Americans are way too uptight about privacy. I agree that it’s currently a privilege (I don’t think I would argue that it’s classist by necessity though) to be able to say what you mean and stick by it. Not everyone can risk the fallout that’s liable to come in ‘meatspace’ (a great word!). But, then, obviously that needs to change. We ought at very least have the freedom to say what we wish, if we wish. If you want to hide, then okay. If you want to abstain from interwebs, okay.)


  • Hal Jay Greene

    @Elaine Corden Your arguments are so full of logical non-sequiturs I..I…gah! But let me address just one of them. Unless you have been somehow identifying yourself as acting in your official capacity as an employee of the company you mention, I.e., you post comments like, “…and that explains why aliens forged Obama’s birth certificate, signed, Elaine Corden, V.P.
    Marketing, Oral Roberts University,” then what makes you, by expressing ANY opinions on the internet–mocking or otherwise– a “de-facto representative of his company’s employees”? Just because you happen to work for a particular company doesn’t make you a de-facto representative of ANYTHING!

  • Tabitha



    And word up to Hal for saying exactly what I was thinking.

  • Andrea

    I’ve been giving this some thought. There’s a general thrust to your argument that I agree with (one that you’ve made here and elsewhere): people ought to conduct themselves with integriy, people ought not to make use of their anonymity to be needlessly cruel, and people ought to get past the illusion that online selves aren’t connnected to real people. All absolutely true.

    If I read you correctly, commenting under our real names will restrain people from anonymous cruelty and force them to consider whether they want their words attached to their name.

    For my part, however, I can still see some personal uses to anonymity and privacy that go beyond a fear of losing work or identity theft. Probably if I were fully actualized (or something) I wouldn’t have the need to manage my personality according to the audience, but I still do. Even a comment like this one (respectful and fair, I hope?) is something that I wouldn’t want recent acquaintances or strangers to have access to, because I’m still interested in cordoning off parts of myself from general consumption.

    In fact, that’s a large part of what the internet has provided me: an opportunity to engage in conversations and to try on opinions without social pressure or self-censoring. I think that’s helped me to develop in mostly positive ways, and I welcome the chance to separate parts of myself into anonymous parcels. For me, it’s very exploratory.

    In the end, I think real names would restrain a lot of online expression, rather than create a space where the exposure of foibles leads to greater tolerance overall. I can’t imagine that better future at all, at least not as anything likely to happen.

  • katiechasm

    @Emily: What do you think of the rest of Elaine Corden’s comment? I took the “I’m sorry” as regret, not an apology.

    To me it seems like every argument against anonymous commenting boils down to “people shouldn’t be mean on the Internet.” Which is a nice idea, but it’s far less important than people’s right to privacy or free speech.

  • Becky

    Yes — what Andrea said.

  • TFJ

    Glad to see you’re back at the blog again, Emily, and it was nice finally meating you at the UES reading last month.

    OK, two totally transparent thoughts:

    The Internet is such a powerful social tool because it removes the spontaneity which defines normal fleshy conversations. There is a time-delay that occurs online which allows web users to think more deeply about their statements and responses. Even a time-delay of 5 seconds can turn ordinary, stuttering flat affect into humorous, quick-witted, intelligent genius. And anonymity gives people the courage to write things which they would probably never say in public. I always feel smarter when I’m writing or conversing online, and if I could have things my way, I’d like to communicate in this medium all the time. I’d walk around with a flat panel screen affixed to my head and a keyboard strapped around my waist. People could type their thoughts to me and I could type mine back to them. Whenever we wrote something funny we could look at each other and smile. After a while of this, our vocal chords would become atavistic and meld into the tracheal tubes we will all soon need to breath out of.

    No, seriously. I think adopting a sober online persona is something we grow into as we age and mature. Kids and young people are mostly the ones who can get away with saying almost anything, and they take advantage of this as often as possible. The way in which we type leaves a digital pattern that is almost like a finger print, and it is about 98-99% accurate. There are also things such as stylometrics to consider when it comes to the web knowing our unique signature. So whether we are using a nom de flame or not when we’re firing off angry comments on some website, our floods of bile are bound to come back to (or catch up with us) sooner or later.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is – there is no such thing as anonymity on the Internet. Whether other web users know your identity or not, you can rest assured that your computer and isp are colluding with dozens of servers to update a virtual dossier of you that is so vast it contains everything from your most vague brain farts to your deepest, darkest, most cherished memories and secrets.

    But still, I would rather be a Netizen than live off the grid. The ’80s were cool, but nothing has made the world smaller and been more revolutionary than the Internet. The two most radical historical changes in thinking can be attributed to the invention of the printing press and the Internet.

  • Anonymous....

    Your book made me cry… I don’t want my friends to know this…. But i want you to keep doing what you’re doing. At the same time, I don’t want to make some lame ass half ass compliment about what you’ve sacrificed/inspired with your honesty because i’m not yet ready to go there myself. And so i post anonymous

  • I’ve been Mockingbird online since the early days of Jezebel, before that I was Rowdy on TWoP. At some point in meatspace time, I lost the bravery to say what I really felt, to be as sharp and funny as I wanted to be, in case it offended someone on whom my paycheck depended, or just made people look at me funny. Being able to comment as Mockingbird, instead of as “myself”, actually has allowed me to get back that part of myself that I lost. I could say things online that I would be worried to IRL, and wow, I found out people agreed with me, that they liked what I had to say. I finally started blogging under the name this year (I’m only like a decade behind, right?), and what I had planned to be a funny take on TV, pop culture, etc, has instead become something deeply honest, an emotional honesty I had trouble expressing even in therapy.

    I have two FB accounts, one for my real self, very SFW, and one for Mockingbird, where I have masses of fun with my Wordsmoker friends, and am able to be more honest with people whom I know only by commenter handles than I am with people I’d see at work everyday. Would having the world at large read my blog and know *I* wrote it mess me up? Maybe a little, as I don’t need future employers to know my feelings on spanking vs hair pulling, nor do I need my dad to know it either. But I use my thin veil of anonymity to be more honest with myself, not to shred others. I will say, though, do not send a boy you are trying to start a relationship with a link to a post you wrote about him as a punch to get him to wake up and take notice if he’s ignoring large chunks of what you say in emails (Hi Emily! I was that girl in Skylight). Even if he says he’s OK with being written about, boy, is he lying. But it does mean you find out he’s just uncomfortable with emotional honesty in any form, and hastens the process of moving the hell on, hard as that is.

  • I tend to lean toward Karion’s point of view. I know what I’m getting myself into. I blog under my own name at work and in private. I typically comment under my own name — with the exception of on Gawker sites because I’ve just been too lazy to change it and I don’t comment there all that much. But what ticks me off about Facebook is having to tinker with the my default setting every damn time they fiddle with their back end.

    All of that said, even the hysteria over Facebook privacy is mostly a media construct. You want to talk about living in bubbles, just look at the people who were going to bring down Facebook in May. That worked out really well.

    The fact of the matter is privacy advocates always have a hard time making their case because the overwhelming of majority of Americans — conservative, liberal or what have you — don’t think about these things at all. Not until something goes wrong — and their credit card data ends up leaking all over the place. Even then, they have short attention spans. Otherwise, a number of major companies — including precious Apple and AT&T — would be out of business. And when it comes to Facebook, it isn’t status updates or photos people should worry about — it’s the data scraping being done by all those ridiculous apps.

    But I’d like to see a privacy group convince all my relatives that they shouldn’t be playing Farmville.

  • TFJ’s got it exactly right. Now, how many people know that their telephone conversations are ALSO being continuously monitored, transcribed and analyzed? That hasn’t filtered down into the collective consciousness yet because there hasn’t been any high-profile breach (yet) but when it finally does…talk about a privacy quake! You’ll wax nostalgic for the good old days of Facebook privacy.

  • TFJ

    “The hysteria over Facebook privacy is mostly a media construct.”

    The power of the media to manipulate and control public thinking is scary. I never bought into the facebook privacy hysteria for a minute, yet people all around me were talking about it nonstop. “I’m going home and deleting my account, I never use that stuff anyway,” a woman at the checkout counter in the supermarket said to me. “It’s scary how much they know about you, and all so they can try to sell you stuff which is mostly junk anyway,” a man at the library said.

    A competitor that has a stake in facebook losing its stride is probably behind the hysteria. They just pay the news outlets and write the scripts, while the Brian Williams and Rachel Maddows of the talking head world fill our minds with some new fear or other each night. Once the PR tides shift, we’ll be hearing about how facebook is so great because it reunited two long lost sisters who were living in the same town in Arkansas for 37 years.

    Seriously, this is mildly retarded stuff people! I don’t know why individuals 60+ are so worried about their privacy being violated when they have been watching TV commercials and opening junk mail for years. It boggles the mind that these older Americans think the Internet is nothing more than a high-tech junk mail conduit and personal data miner. If this older generation is as protective of its sacred personal information as they claim to be, then these people never would have swiped a credit card, applied for a bank loan, purchased a car, gotten a job, paid taxes, taken a survey, or registered to vote in all the years prior to the Internet’s existence.

    By the way, if you want to talk about intrusive – nothing was more intrusive than those dinner-time telemarketing calls. Anybody who is old enough to remember watching Murder She Wrote when it first aired will recall those dreaded phone calls that tried to get you to switch phone companies or accept a complimentary gift for signing up for a credit card. It always felt like corporations were treading on your hallowed ground when they did that, and that feeling was accompanied by an almost measurable rumble that seemed to fill the room. That rumble, however, was only my dad’s anger being perceived by me as a rippling wave of ire.

    Take what you want from me facebook, just don’t tell the world about my ManBearPig fetish.

  • Elaine Corden

    @Emily. “I’m sorry” does not always mean “I apologize”. You’re not stupid, and you know that already. Acting coy about not understanding my word usage is tantamount to playing dumb, as far as I’m concerned. I thought better of you.

    Attacking people’s grammar or word choice rather than dismantling the basis of their argument is usually a sign that the person doing the attacking cannot defend themselves on the merits of their case. Really, the minute you start picking at grammar, you’ve lost all credibility.

  • emily

    @Elaine, I didn’t pick at your grammar, I picked at your tone. I’m not obligated to respond to anyone, and I’m especially not obligated to respond to people who are rude. If you want to have a conversation, act like you would if we were emailing or speaking. If you want to say your piece in a place where everyone can see how sassy you are for disagreeing with me, your work is done.

  • Elaine Corden

    Well, I guess there goes your theory about anonymity preventing rudeness on the internet, although I don’t feel I’ve been rude to you. I feel I’ve challenged assumptions that you have that are based on a very limited world-view.

    Anyways, you’re right. You are not required to respond to me. Here is your corner of the Internet where you can be correct in perpetuity. Enjoy it, I suppose.

  • Elaine Corden

    ^ should read ‘encouraging’, rather than ‘preventing’.

  • TFJ has a good perspective on this whole thing and there’s little to add, but may I make just one more comment?

    A lot of what we see in the media (perhaps EVERYTHING) is a reflection of the hyper-capitalist nature of our society.

    Now, far be it for me to denounce capitalism in any form. I don’t think I’d live in any other kind of society (although a bit more socialism wouldn’t hurt nowadays) and personally, I’m about as capitalist as you can get, but I’m mindful of the (for lack of a better phrase) “profit motive” behind every mathom that gets passed around by the media.

    TFJ is probably right that this latest scandal was most likely stirred up by one of FB’s competitors, but like every juicy little news tidbit (and here comes Perez/Lohan!) it got dropped into the piranha tank that is our so-called national press, where it served, as TMJ correctly observed, as chum to the Brian Williamses and Rachael Maddows of the talking-head world (tip ‘o the hat!), who have a neverending craving for fresh “product” so they can sell us the news instead of deliver it.

  • TFJ

    You are right, Hal. Any droplet of “news” that trickles into the shark tank of our national press gets ripped up, misconstrued and transmogrified to serve and support any agenda. I think whoever put the drop in there in the first place doesn’t care so much about the hype and hysteria, only the outcome. The louder the feeding frenzy, the more profitable the results will be for the original scandal-makers.

  • [...] read a very interesting article in Emily Magazine about Online self vs. “real self” and it really got me thinking about my own web presence. I was happy to read this article because I [...]

  • Tim M.

    Emily, a journo-style question for you: Since the NYT devotes more time/strength/cash/patience to coverage of Facebook and iPhones over, say, things that “leak” from the ocean floor, I’m curious why in all the Facebook-Privacy-Gate dealio no one has come out to say, er, confirm, that privacy settings are easily circumvented by gossip reporters (such as yourself)?

    So, like, when the Spitzer story broke way back when and the NYT ran zesty photos of the call girl from her FB page, presumably and yet no attribution(!), that seemed to raise the question, at least in mainstream media. Sure, this had been going on on blogs like Gawker, but where was the ACLU/Sharpton at this decisive moment? We want security in Afghanistan, sure, and Detriot, but what about the security of bikini photos on FB? My take — it’s all a sham to liberate as many bikini photos as possible.


  • [...] I read this article in Emily Magazine and was baffled by the sweeping statements it made in light of the [...]

  • Aja

    Having a blog keeps things in perspective for me. Don’t put anything on line you wouldn’t want your Dad to read. Because he reads it all. (And sometimes tells his friends).

  • “…why people still care so much about “privacy.”

    Your point is very good. I am amazed how much some people think that what is private about themselves is not known to others. We are not very unique and everything I know about myself, more or less, fits you and everyone else.

    Having dual and or multiple identities has migrated over to massive role playing online games. Take a look at World of War Craft and Second Life. The unspoken rule on Second Life is “what happens in SL stays SL”. A reporter could go into these worlds and come out with a treasure trove of societies shadow activities and secret lifestyles.

  • My use of both Facebook and Twitter are increasingly less personal these days. Twitter I use primarily for news and for connecting with other writers (I’m a freelance journalist).I posted about my use of Facebook on my blog recently, when I realised that I use it to inform people about political issues they might not know about rather than my lovelife.

    I admit, I miss the days when I vented so publicly, without a care in the world. The angst-filled blog I kept as a student, the frank and sexual status updates I made before I friended any of my family or colleagues on Facebook. And I miss the raw, unvarnished honesty of bloggers like you, before we realised that people were going to start judging us on what we wrote, no matter where we wrote it.

    I don’t think I’ve ever posted anything online that I wouldn’t be able to defend, but my definition of what is morally acceptable and someone else’s (an employer, a parent) are likely to differ. Now that my online persona has melded so much with my offline one, I do think more carefully about what I do and say. Now I take the thoughts and events I used to blog about on Diaryland, and polish them, make them funnier or sadder than they really were, because even if I’m not being paid for blogging, tweeting, or updating my status, I’m still selling myself a little.

  • [...] read a very interesting article in Emily Magazine about Online self vs. “real self” and it really got me thinking about my own web presence. I was happy to read this article because I [...]

  • [...] Magazine talks about Online Self vs. “Real Self”. The theory is that soon enough, if not already, there won’t be a distinction. Read the [...]

  • [...] an example of just how badly things can go with a relationship when a blogger gets outed, read Emily Gould’s article Exposed.   Emily started blogging when I did, in 2006 when anonymously posting [...]

  • [...] I read this article in Emily Magazine and was baffled by the sweeping statements it made in light of the narrowness of [...]

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