I don't do a lot to protect myself from the evils of the Internet. I don't reply to the odd e-mails from Nigerian widows. I don't download "funny videos" from strangers. I pay for my music online. On the other hand, I do sometimes spend hours googling the names of people I remember from grade school, and if I can buy it from Amazon, I will just point and click. Then there's the little matter of this blog.
I am found easily enough on Al Gore' best invention. I don't use a pseudonym, and when I change names, it's because I want to protect others, not myself. For the most part, this keeps me thinking about what I have to say, rather than simply spouting off anonymously. This thing has a spell-check, unlike those forums where rabid sports fans congregate to vent their collective spleens, horrible grammar, creative spelling and all.
I won't Twitter. And not just because it makes me think of Bambi. No, much more than that is the "character limit." I like to believe that I have no character limit, or that my character has no limits. Nor should it. But really, I can't recall a moment or subject that I could fully appreciate, disseminate or eviscerate with only one hundred and forty characters. This little paragraph rant about Twitter cost me more than three hundred. And I hardly scratched the surface.
Which brings me to Facebook. My wife, the social butterfly, is quite enamored of this cyber-coffee bar. She enjoys keeping up with friends and acquaintances via the types of wedding dresses they would buy, or the Harry Potter character they most resemble. It is, for her, a wish fulfilled. If you had told her just two years ago that she would have the opportunity to be friends with everyone on the planet, she would have broken down and cried. Okay, the part of the planet with Internet access and the time to update their profiles.
That's not for me. In spite of what you read on the screen in front of you, I am a fairly private person. I would rather not share my status with search engines around the world. I prefer there be a certain amount of mystery. And now the friendly folks at Facebook agree with me. They are encouraging their users to update their privacy settings. "Don't let everyone know who your friends are," they suggest. "You don't have to tell everyone everything," they urge. "Hide yourself from web searches," they warn. Well, whatever happened to "find people you know on Facebook?" Apparently there is a limit to the carefree social networking ethos. And then there's this: "Let your friends know that you have boundaries - in person." What? An actual conversation with another human being? Perish the thought. That sort of intimacy can only lead to further conversations, and before you know it, people will be using the social utility of talking to each other all the time, and we simply don't have the time for that.