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Offbeat – 07 December 2012


Also try to avoid ‘friending’ people who can’t spell or be bothered to write decent sentences. In the knowledge economy, these are prerequisites for communicating knowledge.

The whole thing of Facebook privacy is cropping up again. In a nutshell, it seems as if a group of people want to do whatever they want to do, without anyone being able to see them doing it. I understand the urge in some regards. I used to smoke behind the science block at school. On the other hand, I am a long way away from those years.
For those special moments that require absolute privacy, don’t use Facebook, Twitter or any other social networking site. Don’t use a mobile phone, landline, computer or credit card either. If you want to be totally ‘private’, you have to go off the grid. That means living in a small shack somewhere with no identification and no bills. Have fun doing it, but don’t send me a letter. That will also leave traces.
The web is a place where we exist in the open. The same can be said of real life, but the web leaves traces. In real life, you can deny things that you said, to greater or lesser effect, or put a paper bag over your head and leave town in the dark of night. If you use the web, you will leave traces of yourself, unless there is the sort of global catastrophe that shuts down the web.
As the thing is distributed, this probably means an asteroid strike that blows the earth into lots of little bits. Assuming this doesn’t happen, know now that the grandchildren of your grandchildren will be able to find out about you with far more accuracy than the vague and embellished memories of aging relatives.
Here’s my counsel: post things that you are prepared to live with, for the rest of your life. If some of your friends post dark secrets, take part in cyberbullying or become spammers, that will become known, and it will probably also sit in some or other backup, just waiting for that moment when the CIA decides to investigate, even if the visible pages are deleted.
It goes further. Even if you don’t post about yourself, others probably will. If you make the social feeds or web news, that is part of your web presence. Choose your company well. Google them before you make friends and  or check their presence on social networks. Quickly ‘unfriend’ people who are going wrong.
Also try to avoid ‘friending’ people who can’t spell or be bothered to write decent sentences. In the knowledge economy, these are prerequisites for communicating knowledge.
Does this mean you have to be a ‘drone’?
Not at all. In the run-up to this piece, on a post that sparked it, someone used the word ‘integrity’. I thought about that a lot, until I looked it up. It’s a difficult idea. Integrity is about consistency of actions and values, but it’s also about ascribing to certain moral values.
Moral values are variable from group to group and from period to period. If you are trying for integrity, you need to decide where the moral values sit best with you and then find friends based on that, because you can’t please everyone all of the time.
As a baseline, don’t set out to harm people and don’t abuse the vulnerable or yourself. Be true to yourself. Other than that, as long as it doesn’t embarrass you or get you committed, you can be as eccentric or different as all get-out.
Forget about your privacy. The web collects information about you, even if it is as innocuous as establishing your country. Some websites are stringent and ethical. Others just don’t care. If you don’t want it out there, don’t put it up there. Check the cookie policy and terms of use if need be.
Weigh that up against this: if you communicate, people will be able to communicate with you. The higher the level of your privacy and the more guarded your communication, the smaller the possibility of  meeting the people who light up your brain and give your day that coffee-and-sunrise kind of boost when you log on first thing in the morning.
One of your most fundamental human rights is to be who you are and to express that. If you are censored, that right is denied. It’s even more of a shame to censor yourself.
There really isn’t much place or reason to hide, anyway.

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