As you know from last week's meandering post thoughtful commentary, I have been thinking about the role of the internet on a personal as well as a larger level. I meant the post to be more general in nature, but it was seen by some as a personal cry for help.
What I was really trying to get across is that the instant nature and omnipresence of connectivity has fundamentally changed damn near everything in today's world. Everyone uses Facebook at work. Your boss can email you on your iPhone or Blackberry at 11pm. A news cycle might only last an hour or two. Malls are empty. Newspapers get thinner and thinner. Magazine are disappearing.
Restaurants don't have to worry about 2 food critics from the newspapers anymore. Every customer is a potential food critic, either with their own blog, or via sites like Yelp. Every hotel customer has to be treated like they have a website that gets 10,000 hits a day because they can go online and blog about the rude guy working the desk or the dirty shower in their room. There is increasingly little difference between a sports or political columnist for major daily news papers and the well-read and traveled guy updating his blog from the airport lounge.
I think there have also been some basic changes to how we interact with each other. Today a FB friend (whom I have never physically met) noted that she was going to have some work done by a contractor, but decided not to when she saw his FB page filled with pictures of scantily clad ladies. I was out with friends the other night and it was noted that we couldn't get too crazy, or "Someone will have that up on the web and we will all be in trouble at home!"
There has been a subtle chilling effect on personal conduct that I attribute largely to the prevalence of cell phone cameras and social media sites. Some might argue that is a good thing. I won't tell you that I necessarily disagree, but I want people to realize that this evolution of social mores is happening.
Sure there is always gonna be some super classy lounge lizard who uses the cell phone to tape his drunken encounter with his girlfriend of the night. He's a reprobate and nothing is changing that. But I think that among the more respectable of us, the notion that what you do is being monitored and perhaps recorded is of concern. Think of the Twitter post about the Minnesota cheerleaders getting a little Captain in them at PSU this weekend. What might have been a small local story is now national news.
I will be the first to tell you that I check Webshots and Flickr and Facebook on job applicants. I am one of the ones doing the monitoring. And I am still amazed at what I see out there. But more and more people know that their online presences aren't their own to control and are making their FB updates private and pulling down the photos of drunken revelry.
So what does it all mean?
I think it means that as human beings, our existence must evolve in the face of technology. The pervasive nature of instant mass communication has and will continue to change the world. It is this generations version of Gutenberg's press, mandatory basic literacy education, or the telephone. It's a game changer and we need to figure out where we end and the world begins to be a part of the next step of human evolution. The line is finer and finer all the time and it will define who comes along to Earth 2.0 and who stays behind.