Tuesday, 19 October 2010

The entire world can read this

The difficulty with maintaining a blog for years is that one feels one is repeating oneself, and wonders whether one has anything worthwhile to say. (Perhaps I should have used the first person pronoun rather than the neutral 'one' - because it occurs to me that, not only on blogs but on Facebook and other networking sites, a large number of people not only have no qualms about such repetition but greatly over-estimate the level of general interest in such details as whether one went shopping today or is eating a toasted ham and cheese.) This is not likely to be one of my better posts, but, just in case anyone actually reads this blog, and wondered if I'd made a vow of silence, I can assure my readers that this is not the case (much as it may be a relief to some people in this world if I had.)

I was an Internet designer in its early days, and love the capabilities this technology gives me for research, keeping up with my friends all over the globe, amusing interchanges, and participation in a forum now and then. However, it still amazes me, now that the Internet is long past its infancy, the extent to which people share personal matters on-line. I have, for example, seen Facebook 'walls' with what I would consider quite intimate details of one's life (not to mention language that makes me, one far from prudish and who loves the temperate use of Anglo Saxon vernacular of all kinds, blush and occasionally get bug-eyed.) It further amazes me when anyone is angry or feels violated when something is 'shared,' if it is a matter he posted on his own site in the first place! Of course, I have seen evidence that it can be easy to forget what is a 'message,' and what is posted on another's 'wall' for all and sundry to read.

Normally, I enjoy being humorous on this blog, but I'm going to be quite serious for a moment. As far as I'm concerned, if someone wants to post everything from what he had for lunch to what happened (or he wishes had happened) in a social setting, at worst this entails bad taste or self-absorption. (The self absorption I used to see on 'personal home pages' was stupid enough, but it normally did not have a daily update.) I may not find either trait appealing, but neither do I see them as dangerous. There is a far more troubling matter on my mind today.

I am not suggesting this is universal, nor that it is a trait reserved to the young - but I have a long memory, and know, sadly, that, especially with young people, cruelty, exclusion, mockery, having one's own friends turn on one, someone's being targeted as a scapegoat (often for no reason at all), is far from being new. Most of us either suffered as a result in our youth, or saw others in the situation. I shall also add that, though I could not fathom why, then or now, there are actions one may consider hilarious at that age which one would shudder to have had a part in even six months later.

Those who came to adulthood well before the Internet must all have painful memories, perhaps scars to this day, in those categories. Yet we were fortunate because, if someone mocked us or was cruel, and though it might mean that the stereotype everyone believed (which becomes permanent once it is uttered) meant we'd never have a chance for the truth to be seen by a person or group of people, only a limited number knew of this. Today, the sort of spite that would have been limited could be broadcast to the entire world within an hour.

I'm much too innocent to know if there were many people who were voyeurs - though even I am not so stupid as to know that pornography is an old matter, and that there are people, whether in speech or photographs, who flaunted their own sexual behaviour. I have no understanding of this, but, if it is someone's own choice (and the other party involved is equally willing), the consequences are his alone. It chills me that the tiny 'web cam' devices seem to be licence, in some circles, for photographing others. If this existed in my younger days, at least one had the interval for film developing, during which one might come to one's senses. Today, someone may record another's actions, without his even being aware, and have no qualms about posting this for international viewing.

I could go on about various moral implications, but I'll restrict what I write today to one matter. There is something seriously lacking, in so much as a concept of human dignity (at the barest level), when having technology available means that others are treated as if they were at one's service for what is horrid and cruel 'entertainment.'

No comments: