Anticipating “Internet Fame”

Michael Blowhard speculates:

Are there lessons to be drawn from the episode? It seems likely to me that kids growing up with the Web are going be wrestling with at least one stark choice: does it 1) make more sense to maintain total control over your photographs and videotapes? Or is it 2) more economical (and entertaining) to say “What the hell,” put it all out there, and enjoy whatever consequences ensue?

And why do I suspect that we’ll be seeing a lot of people opting for Choice Number Two?

Just as sensitive online communications that are currently safely encrypted may one day, after technological advances, become public, it may be that someone will eventually develop an effective Internet search engine for images (i.e., one based on something like facial recognition, rather than text as is currently the case). If that happens, a lot of the images that were put on the Internet before anybody expected them to be searchable will become searchable. Photos posted long ago, without accompanying text information, will no longer reliably remain obscure. This is as much true for photos that someone else took of you as it is for your own uploads. The implications for learning about other people in great detail are obvious, though the extent to which this will be a problem will not become clear until we get there.

Michael posits that kids growing up in the new age will face disclosure dilemmas, and they may. But I think it’s at least as likely that most people growing up now and in the foreseeable future will take the lack of privacy for granted. It’s the people now alive who grew up before the Internet who may have the hardest time, because there’s a lot of information out there about many of them that they once assumed would forever remain private.

If you don’t want an image or document to become widely known in the far future, don’t transmit it by or post it on the Internet.

2 thoughts on “Anticipating “Internet Fame””

  1. The stuff that kids at my college put online is astounding. Pictures of all sorts of drunkenness and the like are out there, often advertised in people’s AIM profiles (which, with and the like, are accessible to far more people than just your buddies). The other problem is that you can’t even control it. If you’re at a party or something and someone takes a picture, you might be online and not even know it. And any picture can be placed out of context.
    I think the problem might be worse with Internet-savvy people. They trust the Internet too much, and honestly, most people don’t even think that anything bad can arise from online websites, photos, etc.

  2. The degree to which one fears self-disclosure in a public forum, is directly proportional to the amount of subtle coercion one bows to in one’s daily life.

    Unfortunately humans respond to coercion and we can’t eliminate it completely. My wife just told me to take out the trash, or else. I will comply.

    But if you are fearing repercussions from your workplace, church, community, or wife, you can be sure they hold some form of coercive control over your behaviors.


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