By Ed Bradley
This whole internet thing is really picking up speed, isn't it? I must have been 11 before I'd even heard about it, and when we bought our first modem (after what must have been insufferable high-pitched demands) its main use was sending inane emails, gushing over how amazing it all was. I'm inclined to believe that that feeling of wonder, awe and ceremony is somewhat comparable to when families used to get out the wireless and huddle around it to listen to the Queen's Christmas message. Nowadays children are born with Facebook profiles.
I mention this to remind you of just how fresh and unsullied the phenomenon was, before corporate greed took hold. Businesses didn't need a website, forum or Twitter feed. Having the most basic online presence was a flamboyance, a sign of your futuristic pretensions. How far we must have come then for it to be weird that someone would eschew their own online existence. But that's what I do.
I'm aware of the incongruity in saying all of this from the sort of platform I claim to shun. Consider it a coming-out party of sorts. Despite growing up with the internet as my peer, I think Facebook is the only social media site I've ever used - and even then it's a very passive use. I pretty much stopped sharing my thoughts and exploits when the site opened its doors to the general public and not just snooty university students. I'm afraid of having a potentially infinite audience, but as Planet Ivy continues to grow I hope the transition will be tantamount to slowly cooking a live frog: cold to boiled and none the wiser.
Maybe it's as simple as extrovert versus introvert, participant versus observer, exhibitionist versus voyeur. Just because I don't post on Reddit doesn't mean I'm not forever lurking in the shadows and greedily inhaling the weird stories and interactions that others share. I may not tweet my every bowel movement, but I certainly enjoy burying my face in the planet's collective excrement. I guess that makes me some kind of creepy, scatalogical peeping Tom, but at least I'm the only one who knows it. Check your Facebook feed to ascertain which camp your acquaintances belong to... and if you're not on Facebook then it's pretty obvious which one you've settled into.
The real fear comes from being judged. I'm a selective misanthrope and I do my selecting by watching your social media output. Some of you come across incredibly well but I think some of you are oblivious twats. I hate you. I'd never delete you though - you're my entertainment, my soap opera, my catharsis.
I'm not so arrogant as to believe the feeling isn't mutual. They say there's always someone more proficient in any given facet of life than you are. I bet Usain Bolt isn't the fastest man on earth, that there's some unknown guy who has never even thought of running but could do the 100m in eight seconds. If I find it so easy to hate, then I humbly concede that many people would put me to shame. Louis CK comes to mind. Anyway, I don't feel comfortable attracting that sort of tongue-severing ire, and I'm surprised that so many do.
Social media infects everything else too, but is it really as sinister as I suppose? My brief stint as a conspiracy theorist has cultivated a healthy case of paranoia. The New World Order, Illuminati and now Google seem to feed off my likes and dislikes, my social circles and my personal browsing habits. A seminal moment came when logging into Gmail once. It asked me if I wanted to use my Hotmail account to add more contacts when I'd never, to my knowledge, allowed the two to mix. Why do they all confer? It obviously makes things more fluid and convenient, but that's the hook. I'm reduced to worrying about the Thought Police and wishing for a Luddite revival.
I'm trying to embrace the surrender of my privacy, despite my reservations. The internet's a stage and I'm reluctant to proclaim that I'm not a player. I'd love to read your insightful opinions. No, really!