From The Trenches
When is TMI really, really TMI?
I'm thinking of having blueberry yogurt for lunch.
Meantime, Iíll keep you entertained with every photo ever taken of me, from my first isnít-she-darliní-when-she-drools snapshot to my nightmarish lavender dotted-swiss prom dress. I think youíll be particularly enthralled by the grainy Polaroids of my 1982 vacation with people youíve never met.
Because, after all, these are all things you desperately need to know about me, preferably in every-five-minute updates throughout your otherwise dull and lackluster day.
Yeah, Iím making fun of social media. You bet. Tell the truth: You, too, have rolled your eyes at some of the documentation of mundane minutiae people post about their personal lives.
This is not to say that I donít embrace such platforms as Facebook, which can be not only highly entertaining but downright useful. Just after the earthquake, when the TV satellite signals died and the cell towers jammed, it was the only communication method that worked.
But sometimes such social platforms can lead to, uh, letís call it oversharing. And anyone who doesnít think that Big Brudder is watching is kidding themselves. Two proofs: 1. When I was trying to learn Italian and acquired scores of Italian friends on a Facebook account, all the right-column ads on my America-based account morphed into Italian within two weeks. (Che diavolo?) 2. Not long ago I clicked on two orders online, then changed my mind and didnít complete the process. For the next week those exact same two items popped up as ads at unrelated sites, which was both amusing and unsettling.
So when it comes to putting information on the Internet, how much is too much?
I recently had cause to think about this at length because we did a massive Internet overhaul that included a new NSTCW site, updates on the J.S.Mosby site and my research site, and the institution of yet another site that will go live shortly. Along with this were updates on the magazineís Facebook page, which engendered a discussion about whether or not to use Twitter as well.
The decision was no. Call me a throwback, but the notion of "following" people on Twitter strikes me as a vaguely creepy combination of stalking and slavishness. More, itís not as though there is much late-breaking news about the outcome of the Civil War that requires the immediate attention and swift action of our readers. ("Can U Blieve it? Live frm Appomattox #LeeSurrenders.")
So Iíd be reduced to tweeting what I had for lunch, and Iím fairly certain you have more important things to think about. Iíll add that I have nothing against people who love Twitter, but an inordinate percentage of the tweets Iíve read strike me as a bit twitty. I once accidentally got caught in a People magazine Twitter loop, and it took industrial strength sandpaper and Clorox to get the Kardashian off me. Plus, my IQ plummeted twenty points.
Although Iím poking some fun at this, it seems to me that the availability of such media should give rise to some serious thought about how much of oneís personal information one should provide for mass consumptionóparticularly for collectors. For instance, announcing on any social platform that one will be in New Zealand for two weeks strikes me as tantamount to handing a second-story man keys and directions to the heirloom silver. Along the same lines, Iíve never given a website my actual birthday, but thatís probably less in fear of identity theft than because itís just cheap fun to convince a machine that Iím 29.
Thereís also the question of how much information you have a right to put out there about other people. Now living in Internet infamy is the tweet of a Hollywood type with a quarter million "followers" in which he vindictively gave out someoneís street address. It was the wrong address, and the inhabitants had to move to a hotel until the entirely misdirected furor died down.
What strikes me as the real danger about these instant-send-instant-receive messages isnít so much boring someone into a comaóalthough thatís a riskóitís rashly putting TMI on a virtual billboard at your peril or someone elseís. This consideration should give security-conscious collectors reason for pause.
I know of one case in which a Facebook post announced that, weíll call him Mr. iPhone, was out at a nightclub with Mr. Well-known Art Collector. The post went to 5,000 "friends" of Mr. iPhone. (Iím not sure I even know 5,000 people.) Art Collector came home to find that his house had been burgled. Itís unknown at present if there was any causal relationship, but it does make you wonder.
So, in sum: No, you will not be receiving tweets from NSTCW about todayís yogurt flavor.
We have a magazine Facebook page and would love to have you visit, but we wonít be posting birth dates, baby photos, or extended absences on itóyours or ours.
Last, while Iím quite fond of certain aspects of social media, you will never, ever see photos of that tragic prom dress. Some historical artifacts should stay buried. óEd.
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