No such thing as privacy

(This is the Online column, written for The Southland Times)

Hold the front page: apparently social networking is making us shallow.

That’s according to studies by the Pew Research Centre and Elon University in the United States.

Apparently, social networking should reduce friction between humans around the world by 2020 but our real-life relationships could suffer and become more shallow.

Could? Become? I don’t think we need a study to show us that this is already the case: on Facebook you find people discussing every (often boring) aspect of their life – from romance to bathroom habits – with several thousand of their closest friends, and Twitter is the online king of disjointed conversations with strangers.

Then there’s Chatroulette, where for the price of a cheap webcam you can broadcast your face (or whatever you fancy) into the homes of even more total strangers.

And message boards, don’t forget the message boards. There are people who post on Trade Me who share more with anyone and everyone on the site about the state of their marital sex lives, bowel habits, parenting skills and fraudulent pastimes than I’d be comfortable sharing with my husband. Of course, they do get a little bent out of shape if someone outside their immediate little circle of online friends comments on their posts but suck it up online sharers: if you share in a public forum, be prepared to be called out in that same public forum.

We’re so keen to latch on to the latest technology that we often forget about protecting ourselves and our privacy. In fact, even though Facebook has been repeatedly slammed over user privacy issues, it still seems like every man and his dog is on there looking for friends.

(And on Twitter, it’s every man and his cat, with Sockington doing his bit for feline rights.

I suppose it’s the ability to become whatever you want to be online that is the attraction: I’m sure we all know someone who lacks any social graces who manages to maintain conversations and friendships online that they would never even attempt in the real world.

If you ever fancy a bit of a giggle at the expense of someone else’s stupidity on Facebook, Failbook is a good place to start. Names are removed to protect the guilty but it doesn’t detract from the sadly real humour.

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