Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Call it Quits

I usually don't get very personal on here, but since this news is applicable here I figured what the heck. Over the past year or so, certain events have led me to re-evaluate my presence online and as a part of the general blog/social network community. This is really what the web has turned into. It's no longer just about going to static websites to find out information about stuff. It's all about participating, sharing, and being a community. As a result, people have begun to move away from the old traditional means of networking. This means that instead of making a phone call we send an instant message. Instead of sending a letter we send an E-mail. And the widely accepted substitute for a quick get-together is video chat with Skype, iChat, MSN, et cetera.

All of this should not be news to anyone who reads this, since the so-called "internet age" has already affected the way all of us operate. While all these current communication methods enable us to get certain things done much quicker than we did decades ago, some things just weren't ever meant to be performed in such a perfunctory manner. The quick and easy communication mentality has become a real detriment to existing friendships and relationships because the personal touch has been drastically diminished. Sure, current web technologies allow us to send pictures and videos of ourselves to personalize a message, but there is still a disconnect - an impersonal layer of abstraction known as cyberspace, the intertubes, the www. The physical handoff is not there.

Another biproduct of this whole social network known as the web is our shifting attitude toward privacy. Everyone wants some degree of privacy in his or her life. No one wants to get hourly visits from strangers at the doorstep, or to have all their vital personal information painted across the front side of their house, apartment, dorm, or vehicle. But if the stuff I mentioned above about your life and communication migrating onto the internet rings true to you, then privacy should take on a slightly different meaning.

Now, your "place of residence" is your blog or facebook page. It's where people go to get access to you. They leave messages for you, on your comments section or in your message inbox or on your Wall. Your "vehicle" is equivalent to your web browser, which takes you to where you want to go online and also carries identifying information about you via the use of cookies and scripts. Both your online "residence" and "vehicle" do indeed have your personal information plastered all across the front. The difference here is that anyone can easily take that information and use it for ill, but at a much safer, concealed distance compared to, say, burglarizing your actual house or car.

Sites like Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, and even Google are designed in such a way that entices and encourages people to share and participate, as I mentioned before. Because these services make such activities very, very easy to do, its users (us) tend to be much more cavalier and less cautious than we otherwise would be. Sure, there are privacy settings and privacy policies, but the bottom line is that a) a skilled hacker can jump in and grab and sell your info to the highest bidder, b) Facebook's fiasco in February over whether Facebook can keep your personal info forever (even after deleting your account) as well as what the company has the right do with your information is really telling, and c) the ultimate truth of the Internet is that everything that is ever placed online stays online forever. With the right tools and skills, anyone can render public all your private letters, conversations, opinions, thoughts, photos, and videos.

Anytime you sign up or register for anything online, they require you give them your e-mail address, and if it's more important, they get your credit card number. That's fine in general, but years of online activity and dozens of registrations later, you've realized it's impossible to keep track of whom you've given out all that info to. People end up knowing more about you than you'd be comfortable telling your best friend.

All of this just makes me really uncomfortable. I feel that our move to a more mechanical, robotic community platform built upon inherently insecure foundations (read: the 20-year old World Wide Web) is much too 1984 / I, Robot for me. Where's the meaning? Where's the humanity? Though the temptation and convenience is so great to continue using this blog and things like Facebook or IM as means to communicate, the damage has already been done and the best course of action is to stop the bleeding now before it gets any worse.

I hereby announce that I am quitting this blog, I will be leaving Facebook, and ceasing the IMs. I will be eliminating all but the most essential computer/online activity. I will keep this up for the next week or so just so you can read it, but after that, it's over. I want to thank all 5 of you who have read this blog and the dozens who have been online "friends" with me over the past few years. I have appreciated the time, but it's time to return to my roots. I'll see you all in the analog world, somewhere, some time, wherever you might be.

This is my final post.

Signing off now.