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I Have Something in Common with George Clooney!

There are many influences to this writing.  Chief amongst them the current privacy issues that surround the internet.   People ask me quite a bit why I don’t use Facebook, Twitter, or other such social media. My general response is to quote George Clooney on the subject of having a Facebook page.

"I would rather have a prostate exam on live television by a guy with very cold hands than have a Facebook page" (that could be a little inaccurate because of “paparazzi down the alley” but you get the idea)

I do realize that this is not quite the answer they are looking for.

But a recent conversation with a good friend familiarized me with a new term called “FaceSpook” (being spooked by Facebook, if you weren’t sure)  you can read the whole story here:  Social Notworking and go to lesson 3 (you can read the other lessons, their good too, don’t let ME tell you what to do).  There is no way I can do it justice, you’ll just have to read his blog to better understand.  Sufficed to say, it shows how the line between friendliness and stalking can be ever so thin and blurry, hence the use of the word spooky and not something more accusatory.

As an IT professional I see technology change rather quickly.  Also as a professional we have to deal with the practically and cost effectiveness of keeping up with that technology.  Sometimes that results in scrambling to get up to speed and implement something useful.  However, most of the times it simply results in “skipping” a generation of changes when there really is no benefit.

This can be applied to you Home/Office requirements as well.  In addition, since time is always at a premium in your professional life AND your personal life, you have to consider the benefits of taking the time to incorporate these changes into your life.

Finally, when you incorporate a change into your life you not only have to consider the benefits but the risks as well.  I’ve heard too many “shifty and shady” stories to feel comfortable with using it.  There are simply too many “undocumented” behaviors associated with social networking.

However, my prediction is that it is inevitable that we will need to participate in social network.  It won’t be until the technology matures that it will be truly useful and effective.  When Social Networking begins to incorporate more of our daily needs and tasks, it is then that it will be forced to mature.  For instance, when it begins to touch things that are already secure (like banking and healthcare) companies and finally lawmakers will need to begin taming the wildness.  It will be corporations that primarily drive this, as usual Washington will simply follow along as instructed.

By design, I have avoided using the word “privacy” in this discussion so far.  So let’s go back to that now and I would like to give you some points to contemplate.

Stories are told in a wonderful array of mediums.  For instance, you may find them in, Books, Music, TV, Movies, Poetry, or whatever!  I’ve found that quite a bit of my creativity comes to me visually (like I’m sure it does for many of us).  The difficulty for me has always been articulating those things into words.  Maybe not so much in writing, but definitely in speaking.  So many times I find those words in pieces of the work of others.  The trick for me is assembling those pieces I find into a complete topic, so to speak.

My point being (thank GOD he’s getting to his point finally – I heard that!) that you will find me quoting movies, books, TV, etc. ad nausea.  I’ve always thought, “why reinvent the wheel” and why take credit for something I didn’t say.  So even though this example is somewhat humorous, it brings up some great points.  So try to ignore the humor in this example, I would try to leave it out but it intertwines itself with the example.

House, M.D., Season 6, “Private Lives”

To set the scene, the players are in House’s office discussing their newest case.  As with many of their cases they try to determine if the person’s mystery illness and symptoms could be caused by something in their lives or their environment.  This is what they are discussing here…

Foreman: She's a blogger...

House:  What does she Blog?  Politics, Dominatrix, Cooking? Because I need recipes.

(ME:  See!  I just can’t avoid those pesky jokes!)

Chase: It’s a personal Journal… I don’t get putting your whole life online.

Taub: It’s not that crazy, privacy is essentially a modern invention.  Towns used to be too small for anyone to keep any secrets..

[Taub redirects the conversation back to the patient’s symptoms for a while, but then House interrupts and steers it back to the privacy issue]

House: And knowing too much about each other is EXACTLY why people leave small towns and move to the city.

Taub: And a lot of people choose to stay behind; and in return for zero privacy, you get community, connection...

House Interjects: Big Red “A”s for our Tunics...

House goes on to say: Connections are for airports. For people, we have over 300 cable channels

[They break up the conversation and Taub and 13 (Dr. Hadley) go to the patient’s apartment to see if they can identify any environmental causes of her symptoms, she brings up the topic again with him)

[Note that Taub has a history of being a philanderer and they never let him forget it]

13: I'm surprised you took the “Pro Community” position

Taub: I have friends. I like people.

13: You also like secrets.

[Taub looks at Thirteen]

13: You deny it and that sort of proves my point.

[another pause as he sighs]

Taub: When we're left to our own devices... we make lousy choices

I know it loses a lot if you haven’t seen the show.  In addition there is far more dialog in this episode that explores the subject.  So let me tell you some of the thoughts it generated for me. (remember, one of the beauties of any art is that everyone is free to get what they want from it)

Firstly I’ve often contemplated what I call the “One Room Schoolhouse Theory”, and Taub’s mention of privacy being a modern invention is spot on.  History shows us that even as late as World War II the majority of communities still functioned in that way.  The people in those communities primarily relied on each other for survival. Just take the issue of basic survival needs such as food.  A typical community of that time had everything it needed to survive, yes maybe at a minimal level but even a community that was beginning to industrialize still had local farms that they relied on for food.  Just take a minute to compare that today’s consumerism which doesn’t rely on a tractor for food, but a tractor-trailer!

How does this effect privacy you may ask?  Well when you no longer need your community to live, then what do you need them for?  I’m only saying that there is very little to FORCE us to be social anymore.  However, we are “social animals” so to speak, so that social connection may very well be a life necessity for us?

(by the way, the discussion about the tractor-trailer, modern highways, and transportation in our world and how it changed the world we know AND how it still effects us today is another fascinating discussing I’ll have to take up at some point.)

That dovetails into Taub’s ending statement which has direct bearing on his life and the regret he feels for the bad things he’s done.  He said that when we are left alone we make bad choices.  He seems to want that check and balance for himself, he wants that “cumulative social conscience” that comes from that lack of privacy in a small community.

Herein lies what I think is the problem with social media at this point in time.  I am no expert on the subject and I don’t claim to be, if someone wants to refute these statements I would love to know more.  Remember, I am as much asking a question by saying these things as I am making a statement.

Having said that, I feel strongly that there is no “Social Conscience” associated with social networking.  In addition, in a lot of ways there is no social amalgam that is created by this media, we all seek out people with similar interests and don’t challenge ourselves to venture beyond.  There is also a false sense of anonymity associated with some media as well. This part is a little confusing and I have yet to find the words to get the pictures out of my head but I’ll try to explain.

It’s a bit of a paradox in the sense that you can go out to Facebook and look at someone’s profile and see things about their lives, but you are seeing what they want you to see.  Are they even using their real name? then again, what’s in a name?  Who cares if the person on the other side of the conversation is Black, White, Yellow, or Green! So then why post a picture of yourself? But is that picture even a picture of you or a photoshopped version of you? (maybe your head on Fabio’s body or vice versa?)

Do you see how this can get muddled up and confusing?

There is more on that topic, but as I said, I need to flesh it out more and hopefully it will be a rant you will read about later.

Briefly I just want to talk about House’s apparent position on privacy.  He’s quick to point out the bad that is associated with a lack of privacy.  That’s because it’s an inevitable function of, let’s just say “the Universe”, that human’s will be judgmental, persecutory, and even more importantly; take advantage of the vulnerability of others for their own gain.  I’m sure you can come up with your own example which could range from Hitler to Jim Bakker to executives at BP!

I’ve often heard the Internet referred to as “the Wild West of the 21st Century”.  It’s an interesting analogy and creates what is meant to be a fearful image.  Who could argue there aren’t things to fear on the internet, no one!  I will however present you with an alternative. One that was created a long time ago when I read the book “1984”.  In one simple word, vigilance.

Try not to fear something and simply cast it aside, instead be vigilant.  That is said with the understanding that sometimes people simply don’t have, let’s say “the time”, to be vigilant. (yet again, taking “the time” is a whole separate discussion).  Sometimes it simply means “swearing off” something all together until it can’t be avoided.

I’m NOT saying stick your head in the sand and don’t come up until it’s safe either!  Because you’ll be in that hole forever!  Instead make a calculated and informed decision to “swear it off”.

This is an especially useful and difficult approach for parents, but I believe a necessary one.  And yes, I concede that I am not a parent but even so, it’s plain to see the need for vigilance in this way.

So it’s not out of FEAR that I am “skipping” this generation of technology, it’s a simple matter of vigilance.  Well, it might be a little laziness too, but the topic of “laziness” as I have come to know it will have to wait for another day.

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