My official membership card to the “Dude’s Club” arrived a lot earlier than expected. I would like to dedicate these words to my fianceé, who was (and is) quite simply wonderful.
One of her pet peeves is that I “work too much” and am “addicted to technology.” As a designer, web developer & marketing strategist, I have definitely struggled with spending too much time staring at LED screens – staying far too plugged in, when I should just be present in the real world. Even when I’m in the great outdoors – here in the Colorado Rockies, one of the most beautiful places on earth – I’m constantly taking photos, videos, sharing locations… I am perfectly comfortable with the public nature of my online activity. Being a
developer net nerd, I have a bit more knowledge of how to protect myself – as well as what’s being done with the information I put in cyberspace – be it social or e-commerce related.
I have been photographing since I was 13, DJing since 15… I never really felt comfortable on “the stage.” I always liked being behind the scenes. But I love sharing the things I’m passionate about – and I definitely get a rush when other people like them too. As I mentioned in my last post (during which I experienced “sophomore slump”) I am no scientist – but human behavior truly fascinates me. Plus, I did take some “Social Sciences in the Arts” classes on my way to a BFA. That’s gotta make me at least as much of an expert as the talking hairdos I see on “news” shows, discussing the effects social media has on the public.
Some months back, I posted up on Facebook that I’d finally quit smoking – it got more positive responses than anything I had ever posted on any social network. Shortly thereafter, I was talking with a friend – who is far smarter than I am – about it, while we were watching his boys huck themselves off huge mounds of slush at Copper Mountain. He explained the basic chemistry of dopamine to me. And how it drives social media. I was intrigued, to say the least.
We all know we’re going to continue to see increased publicity surrounding social media usage, in not just the media but also in our courts, over the next few years. The two most important issues in my opinion, will be: our incredible willingness to forfeit our privacy, and the negative side-effects that result from living our lives in public.
There are, and will be many more, entire books forthcoming about the issue of online privacy. But if you are using social media you should take a little time to read up on the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Net Neutrality, SOPA/PIPA, and CPNI – because recent legal briefs filed by telecom carriers are essentially arguing that since we freely share information publicly via social media sites, they should be freed from their legal obligations to protect our private information. [h/t Paulie @ heyheyrenee]
I got engaged last week. It trumped my “quit smoking” post by leaps and bounds.
What I did not mention (though by Tuesday, one comment had snuck in anyway), was that I had been forced to abandon my elaborate proposal plans. My “baby mama” had been diagnosed with preeclampsia, and I simply climbed up into the hospital bed with her, and told her I wanted this to be my family forever, and showed her the ice. Luckily, she didn’t kick me out – though I did get the “don’t marry me just because I’m sick!” spiel. It only impacted the urgency; the decision was made months ago. I just thought we’d have more time.
The lady in my life had asked me, a few weeks prior, if we could keep our daughter’s birth off Facebook. She knows how much I like to use social media sites – and I was also honestly a little surprised. Why? What would it really matter? Social media makes it far easier to spread the word about events happening in your life, as opposed to having to call or e-mail everyone directly – then you inevitably forget someone, they get hurt… Plus, the baby was going to be – well, a baby! It wouldn’t matter to her, right? However, momma had dealt with a couple sticky situations when she found out she was pregnant. Her hair stylist (we all know barbershops & beauty parlors are the original, human Facebook) had mentioned the pregnancy to a couple of people who were really offended that they hadn’t been told personally. She wanted the chance to tell everyone in her family before it ended up all over Facebook. This struck me as a very reasonable request.
Disturbingly, I found myself chomping at the bit to post pictures of our daughter publicly – the same as I’d been to post something about our engagement. I had already e-mailed family and a select few friends some great pictures… What bothered me, was that although it absolutely came from a place of love and happiness – it also, honestly, came from a place where I thought about perception, and maybe even Klout. I mean, seriously – a diamond ring is one thing. But how nuts were people going to go when they saw this image of me nuzzling & feeding my 5.5 week premature daughter?
Dopamine. Dope? I wanted to feel the rush from that perceived reward… For some reason, I found I’ve somehow (unknowingly, I believe) conditioned myself to feel like even an event so incredible as becoming a dad – wasn’t truly wonderful until I could share it. With not just my family and close friends… but a bunch of random acquaintances as well. This depressed me. But I have known, for quite a while, that there is also an addictive component to social sharing as well. Please trust me when I tell you this is an area in which I also have some expertise.
Now, in general, many people who use social media have very little expectation of privacy for the content they share. If you are going to put anything up on the internet, anywhere – please believe it can potentially be there forever. Forever-ever. I’m not just talking about tweets that get deleted, that someone perhaps caught with a screenshot as well. I’m talking about when someone doing a background search on a job applicant stumbles across embarrassing photos, that a friend posted, a user may have been unaware even existed. What happens if she were refused medical coverage, because an insurance company considered an ailment – that was a result of premature birth – to be a preexisting condition?
I choose to write this, and leave all social sharing buttons enabled, because I’ve recently been reminded that though there are many ways social media has enhanced my life – we should all occasionally take a moment and think about the larger issues involved. Especially privacy. There have been tons of stories lately about potential damaging effects of parenting publicly via social media. And how we are finally learning different ways to show where social media is actually making money. I’ve found tremendous personal value in using social media – I have learned, found work, reconnected with people I’d lost touch with over the years… but I also acknowledge that I have freely given away my tastes, opinions, history, style, and creative content to a number of websites that have gotten rich selling me. Yet some of the most wonderful content I see online, has to do with parents sharing things their kids do – I love following hilarious threads about the crazy & amazing stuff kids do. The question becomes whether the value of participating in the public conversation – this blog is an incredibly valuable social site, where I’ve learned a great deal from parents sharing expertise & authentic content – is worth giving up some of your family’s privacy.
In the social space, have no illusion: you are a product. But anyone who says that it’s only social media sites like Facebook that are exploiting our activity, have never actually read a “Terms of Service” agreement. Has anyone ever read the iTunes agreement? Virtually all e-commerce sites are working as hard as they can to collect as much information as they can about your habits, so they can more efficiently sell you stuff – and sell you to their marketing partners as well. Vail Resorts “Epic Mix” program is fun for so many skiers & riders – but they didn’t invest millions JUST to you can share your activity & pictures. It’s so they can track your activity – not to see when you duck a rope to ski out of bounds – but in collecting data about user behavior, the company can make better informed decisions and generate more revenue.
This post serves as my official entry into the online parenting community. Our daughter Grace was born this past Monday, almost 6 weeks early. I have spent the last week learning a great deal about the effect of premature birth, and I look forward to sharing information with other parents, who have been through what we are experiencing. I believe that the resources social sites – like this one – offer enough value that it is worth abdicating our daughter’s privacy, a bit.
But I am very glad we chose to keep our most precious asset to ourselves, for a little while.