Modern-day hitchhiking. Many thanks to my niece (on her way round the world)

Not too long ago on a human scale, let’s say about twenty years ago...  there was a simple way to exchange news and pictures.

You usually wrote a letter on a piece of paper which you dropped into an envelope along with pictures if you felt like it. The envelope was a stick-down one which you licked very cautiously because it was so easy to get your tongue slightly slit in the process.

This was the easy part though because...

Then you hoped to get an answer. You waited for an answer. Then one day, the mailman would drop an envelope into your mailbox. There it was... the long-awaited answer from your friend or your lover or your cousin, whatever...

If you were the one to open the mailbox, then there was no problem. But when your mother or one of your siblings was the one to beat you to it, then I’m pretty sure that you scrutinized the envelope before opening it... Because you see, sometimes people couldn’t help it. They had to tamper with your mail, steaming your precious envelope open, reading your mail and then resticking the envelope. So understandable!

You knew and you got upset because this was very private. So private even if the letter itself was just a bunch of foolish and not very important words...

It was a matter of privacy, wasn’t it? And privacy was a matter of life and death especially for teenagers! I know, I know... I may be exaggerating there... Well, not really after all.

And then in 2006, someone named Mark Z. created Facebook... Actually he created it a little bit earlier but it went public in 2006. And in 2013, it is used by billions of people, by you and you and you and... me.

I need to be brief there because before Facebook, there was a new contraption called the electronic mail which was quite safe IF you did not give away your password to your parents nor to your siblings nor to your loved one, that is.

But today I’m writing more about “I Like” Facebook than Gmail/Hotmail or whatever.

I am not in love with a mailman (and fearing for his future) so I don’t feel really bad that we no longer send letters (and envelopes) besides the fact that paper kills trees...

I am simply very worried about Facebook. And don’t try to make me feel like an old woman because actually I’ve always had a passion for computers and the web. But Facebook... well, I’ll draw a line there.

Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, I met a young man while I was a student. This was a long, long time ago. We were buddies until one day when he made up his mind unilaterally that we would end up married. Only he had to convince me that he was right. For a few years, I threw away letters from him that my parents would forward me, most of the time without even opening them.

I got married. I got divorced and I married again. He was still sending me mail which my family would forward me...

Then more than twenty years later he probably lost heart (or found a good shrink) and he disappeared from my life...

Then Facebook forced its way into my life. I have told the story here and there. It was fun until this guy found me again through a very serious breach of privacy even though I thought I had totally protected my profile. He started pestering me again. I got very upset and quite vocal in my displeasure but... I only had one way open since he was not a “friend”. I had to deactivate my account once and for all.

I started fighting off Facebook. This was very amazing. The way “they” were so reluctant to let me go... One in so many billions...

One day I finally got my account deactivated but not before all my contacts, my “friends” appeared to me, one after the other. There was a caption: “You want to leave. Won’t you miss... so and so? She/He misses you already.” So creepy!

So I left! And I was feeling just fine for many reasons, the most important one being that I had managed to throw my tormentor away!

I mentioned that a breach of security had allowed him to come back into my life. One day I decided I had to test Facebook... on my terms!

I did not want to use my mail account since I knew very well that a mail account would be easy to trace back to my id.

I decided that this time I would be American. I created a mail account @aol.com using an alias and contact details totally eccentric. Once the mail account was created, I signed up on Facebook using this new mail account. Once I logged in with a totally unreliable identity, assumed name and all, I filled in all sorts of crazy infos.

And it worked. Except that Facebook became very hungry for “friends”. I gave several names of course. Swee’Pea and his best friend were ok with  this. And yet it was the lack of “friends” that broke the experience. I got fed up with Facebook trying to force people on me, all of them being Swee’Pea and his friend’s friends of course...

So this was the end of my pitiful “lawbreaking” experience. 

But I proved my point: Facebook has security and privacy problems. Probably more than I can even imagine. Because this bogus profile allowed me to spy on a lot of people... because so many people go public and they are not very careful. It really proved my point. And I was not malevolent there, just trying to prove my point to whoever was ready to listen to me!

A few months ago I created a new profile. A “lawful” one this time but I was careful to use hyphenation hence adding a second family name to my surname.

The reason why I created this profile was to keep in touch with people I like... not people I Facebook-Like. But I know that to keep safe it would be much better not to be very active on Facebook. I have to keep a low profile. Keep a very low profile. Never “Like”. Never comment...

Of course the whole silence thing is turning me into some kind of a female “Peeping Tom”! Which is not very wholesome after all except that I don’t spend much time on Facebook anyway! And so I am not this much of a female PT!

But I still worry whenever I see so many people around me clicking compulsively on “Like” all the time or going “Public” with all sorts of private stuff.

I am not too worried about the NSA thing though because we have been living in 1984 for quite a long time now with our IP addresses and our iPhones, etc.

But you’ll have to admit that we’ve come a long way... in a very short time! There was a time when we’d check envelopes fearing they had been opened thus disclosing our secret thoughts and private life. Opened by close relations whom we were distrustful of.

And now is the time when we offer to the whole world our very personal thoughts wholeheartedly. Even though the ones who are reading our thoughts and comments and who look at our pictures may not be real friends for the most part... and sometimes they only are very new and fleeting acquaintances.

Now is the time when we care very little about our privacy.

Thank goodness time flies by so fast and people are so busy that everything becomes quite insignificant after all. Our “Likes” and “Comments” get dissolved into a torrent of billions of news items that keep being discharged every second.

Yes but even so... Think about it, my friends!

*Good Luck, and Good Night*

1 comment:

Myrna said...

That is very chilling, actually. Thanks for sharing. Definitely something to think about...