A friend who knows I throw up my personal stats, associations, and political colors on Facebook suggested I check out this YouTube video, where a sedated-sounding narrator challenges our comfort level with hoisting such personal gargantua and minutia online.
The suggestion is we are doing Big Brother’s heavy lifting for him.
While these concerns can’t be too easily or cavalierly sidestepped, I’m also reminded of the organizational capacity Facebook offers activists, its role in pro-democracy movement in Egypt that first caught my attention in the pages of Columbia Journalism Review (which also raised some unflattering blowback by suggesting bloggers are not de facto “journalists”).
Sandmonkey was determined to quit his blog. Sniping away at life and politics in Egypt had become too risky, he said, even under the cover of his anonymous online moniker. Too much of a chance the government thugs would hurt him or someone close to him, or smash his computer equipment. He wasn’t alone in his worry. The dozen or so bloggers who had gathered in the offices of a fledgling Cairo newspaper were freaked out by the four-year prison term given to a twenty-two-year-old former law school student for criticizing President Hosni Mubarak and for “religious incitement.”
I was reminded of Egypt’s bloggers this morning, fisting my way through the glossy gadget-encrusted pages of November’s Wired, when I finally (yeah, ish has been out for an agonizing week) stumbled on their feature on the same topic.
So I wonder about the balance at work between networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Myspace and our individual and collective security.
As one who earns my fruit money as a writer, I have to be online. That’s where the action is. Print as we have known it is, well, rotting plainly on the vine. But I’ve also chosen to expand my presence by keeping this here blog, as well as dumping occasional missives about what I’m reading, who I’m knowing, and a wide range of none-too-valued trivia on Facebook and elsewhere. The later has been less an outflow to my “serious” writing but inspired more in the interest of simply communicating and socializing. Hey, the digital age is lonely one, after all.
I’ve found the increased transparency refreshing. Readers of my paid work, can find the three-dimensional cretin is all his awkwardness swinging on a tether at the end of a few links. Though I’ve made a decision not to be too personally revealing (no public scab-licking about my failures at overall personhood, for instance).
I know other writers have avoided putting much online, or even commenting on blog posts, for fear their real or suspected bias will be unwittingly exposed. Thankfully, I work in a market where my bias is well-understood upfront. Still, I wonder more broadly how others have navigated this territory between privacy, security, and raw political dialogue.
Perhaps some of my answers are in there — if I get a chance to read it. There are the work deadlines, after all, pressures of keeping this site fresh-ish, and other obligations I set for myself as an information disseminater.
Perhaps I publish at my personal peril. But do I really want to live in a world where self-censorship is the price of continued, unobstructed citizenship? No. That’s why I’ve made the decision to live out loud and obvious. I suspect we can’t afford to do otherwise.
[Facebook image from DigiActive.]