A webidemic of click and tell
By Adarsh Matham
21st October 2012 12:00 AM
In the last two years, Rakesh never met anyone whom he did not impress in the first meeting. His father-in-law likes him because he is into old Hindi songs. His teenaged brother-in-law likes him because he is a fan of Justin Bieber. His new boss likes him because he loves V S Naipaul. His new colleague likes him because he is a great fan of Chetan Bhagat. But as someone who grew up with him, I know for a fact that he hates music of any kind, and the only book he read in his whole life is The Hound of the Baskervilles that he had to read in school.
Rakesh is part of a growing tribe of people whose opinions, likes and dislikes change depending on the person they meet. The rise of these opinion chameleons is aided by the abundance of availability of people’s personal details on the Internet. And it is not even that people are getting their hands on this information using some dark arts like hacking. All this information is being given voluntarily by all of us.
Take anyone’s name. Your teacher, boss, neighbour, the girl in the bus stop. And do a Google search. If they have a LinkedIn account, a Facebook profile and a Twitter account, you will more than likely now know where they are born, where they worked, what their colleagues think of them, who are they married to, which films do they like and if you are lucky you will even know what they had for breakfast today morning. All publicly available information naively given by the users themselves.
Or do a Google search of your own name. A very deep Google search. Spend sometime looking at your old tweets, old Facebook posts, five-year-old profile pictures from Orkut. If you are astonished by how much of your personal life you have put out on the Internet for everyone from every corner of the world to see, you are not alone. Recently when Facebook formatted users profiles into neat timelines, people were outraged to find out that Facebook has suddenly outed their old private messages for everyone to see. Except Facebook did not. What happened is that users found it hard to believe that in the past they said certain things in public that they could not believe that they said in public.
Though research has found out that 28 per cent of teenagers don’t bother with privacy settings, it is safe to say that we all are guilty of committing some serious mistakes on our social networks. Either because we are too lazy or because we are too careless, we commit mistakes like sharing too much information, of not bothering to tweak our privacy settings. And we thereby allow our information to be shared with companies and individuals to whom we wouldn’t normally even tell our name.
While privacy concerns are one thing, this information over sharing is leading to new social dynamics about how we communicate with others. We would not live in a glass house and let everyone passing on the street look into our lives. We don’t let strangers see when we are sleeping, or what we are eating. But the disconnect between the physical and virtual worlds is making us forget that what we share online is increasingly having an impact on our real lives.
This is not to say you should quit social networks. This is to say that you should keep an eye on what you are saying publicly. Just Google yourselves occasionally.
The author is a tech geek.
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