Friday, September 01, 2006

The willing violation of privacy

It is a very "in" thing these days to be a member of as many online communities as possible. You join, fill up a profile about yourself, put up as many photos of yourself, and add everyone you know who's also a member of that website as your "friend". So within about a week of joining, the whole world knows you some 60-odd friends. The interesting thing about these websites is that people you had completely lost touch with suddenly reappear in your life and add you as their friends. So it's all very exciting and lots of messages going back and forth about how looooooooooooooooong it's been and how grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrreat it is to hear from you again and what is up with you these days and blah, blah, blah!!! After about four-five such messages, silence re-emerges, and you simply occasionally visit each other's profile, and pat yourselves on the back about how many people you're in touch with.

I have never seen the point of these websites. Yes, they occasionally lead to a real reconnection between long-lost friends, and yes they can be fun at times (and very amusing at others for some!!!), but for the most part, it seems to be a kind of security blanket (in a friend's words - copyrights must be respected) to say that you know what a 101 people are doing. I know what most of former classmates are doing today thanks to these websites, but I wouldn't say I'm in touch with any of them. Knowing where a person is does not amount to keeping in touch in my book.
The latest craze is a website called Orkut. This has gone one step forward. It has the concept of "scrapbooks" wherein you can leave messages for people in a way that the whole world can read them. Now, maybe I'm a neurotically private person, who doesn't really like the whole world to know what I'm upto, but I honestly do find the whole concept of scraps quite absurd.

I was talking to a friend on the phone the other night. Now he happens to be someone who is a hardcore fan of these websites. He mentioned how he met an school friend some days back, someone who he hasn't spoken to in years, yet someone who knows every detail of what's going on in his life and vice versa, simply because they've been reading up each other's scraps. I tried pointing out that such a thing isn't exactly something to be kicked about, but he thinks it's quite cool for whatever reason. Well, gee I'm sorry, but I don't get it.

How is it cool to have someone who you haven't spoken to in years know every little detail about your life?!? Some former schoolmates of mine added me as their "friends" on Orkut; I accepted out of politeness. These people are now scrapping me asking me about what's going on in my life, as well as sending me Friendship Day scraps. The best part about this? Not once in our eight years of being in the same school did we ever exchange words. I'm sorry, but I don't get it.

Something happened to me a couple of months back that was probably the best news I had received in a long, long time. Not wanting the whole freaking world to know about it, I emailed four-five people about it because I felt they deserved to know. Two replied very nicely, while the other two simply scrapped me back. I'm sorry, but I don't get it.

I don't get how you can let the whole world know what's happening in your life. I don't get how you can let everyone read your conversations with anyone. I don't get how you can scrap someone who has emailed you about something quite personal. I do realise that not everyone likes to keep things as private as I do, and I respect that. But this latest fad seems to be encouraging a complete lack of privacy for anyone and everyone, and I'm sorry, but I don't get how that can be considered so highly wonderful.


R said...

I really really don't understand the concept of scraps... they're faster than email but slower than IMs and they are visible to the public... that's the best part. Them and the 2000 friends are just an ego boost... look at all my friends, look at how many people are scrapping me and see what nice nice things they are saying about me.

I have people on my list I have never scrapped. I have rejected friend requests from people I didn't like while I knew them and I really wouldn't mind having just a few people on my list. I even cleared up my MSN list. What am I trying to prove?

Anonymous said...

one question for you ... what is the current scrap-count in your scrap book; and how many scraps have you written for others??? aprox nos. wud do.

some things just catch on, no matter how much you like or dislike ..... some wise man said,'lead, follow or get out of the way'....

one question for your friend above ....and its the same one she has asked herself in the closing line


Anonymous said...

Well i am NOT the FIRST one to comment on it..:(..its 3:00 A.M..i am totally sloshed..

so will rite 2morw.!!

a traveller said...

Yes, I scrap people.
However, one, I only scrap people I am actually in touch with, and with whom I usually maintain some sort of contact outside of Orkut as well. It's very rare that I scrap someone I'm not in touch with, and that's usually only if they've written saying hi or whatever.
Two, I do not talk about my private life on such a public forum. Neither do I go around adding and scrapping random people who I knew vaguely years ago just because we happened to be in the same institution at some point in the distant future.
Which was the whole point of my entry, I might add.

a traveller said...

Uh... I meant distant past!

R said...

I reject people I don't know and I reject people I have known at some point and don't wish to get in touch with thank you very much. I don't respond to scraps from these epople either and I delete any of those 'friendship' scraps. I watch what I scrap and if I am feeling particularly scandalous I may make use of publicity to post something controversial.

How many scraps do we have? probably some multiple of 5. After the odd destabilising scraps we get, it is the rule that we round off the numbers for each other by typing aimless useless non-helpful stuff. but there is always this added stress (for me at least) to make it readable for the other people who come ambling by. I aim to entertain I suppose... as long as we're flaunting our conversations to the world, may as well make them interesting (subjective POV of course)

But the BEST scrap use I've seen are couples telling each other and announcing to the world how much they Looooooooooove each other. Oui, oui, I am a privacy invader.

Anonymous said...

Well for once i agree on this post...Yes..!!ppl..we HARDLY know add us to our freind list(prob i do it sometimes as well ) ..and the first 2 to 3 scraps are like...

Hey loooong time...

wht hv u been upto...

oh thas cool..i am doin..blaha..blah...!..

and then it was like back to the way we were tch after School or college...!!

I also Agree its like a Total Invasion of privacy .People reading our scraps to know wht s happening in our lifes . Profile Visitors do tel us that whose being Spying on us...but we cant do anything abt it...prob spy on them to...;)

But Yes everything has its Pros And Cons Its upto to u wht u wana share in A scrap and wht NOT..!!

Keep Scraping..

P.s: I confess today..i sneak in ppl's Scrapbook..!!:P..

Anonymous said...

dahling traveller-get those howlers corrected ASAP. I am in complete agreement with you about this entire orkut thing. Thats why i have an amazing list of three people. i wrote to them because they wrote to me-without a doubt silence soon followed. two have not written back to me thanks to my inability to respond-only one writes to me and thats primarily because she knows me very well-goes further to just prove what you said.poeople who dont know me cant expect to know me all of a sudden by just adding me as a friend.

but there is a slight problem- i hope you see where this takes you-to the isolated island with only a few kindred souls. i think what you are doing is trying to fight an ever shrinking world,that brings you suphocatingly closer even as you wish to breakaway-but thats all right!

way to go-keep writing and keep me posted.

Anonymous said...

yup totally agree with you on this orkut thingie..especially when i'm waiting to use the computer and some vela person is sitting there 'keeping in touch/entertaining' the whole world with useless details of their lives!!!!

a traveller said...

Yes, yes, I am getting validation, and it is all very nice. How hard is it, however, to leave your name, or at least a nickname I would know you by? [I'm assuming, of course, that you are a person I know]

Anonymous said...

oops...forgot..its me deepa

Anonymous said...

Pig speaks latin.