“With enough courage, you can do without a reputation,” says Rhett Butler in the classic Gone With the Wind. Well, my orchids of decadence and delight, I hope you’ve got courage because come next week, the internet is going to be a new, much more transparent world.
“If someone has something good or bad to say about you, they’ll be able to do it anonymously and with very little potential legal or social fallout,” Arrington says. He adds:
We’re still wired to think of gossip as something that spreads quietly behind the scenes, and relatively slowly. But we’re already in a world where it’s all completely public, there are few repercussions to the person spreading it, and it is easily searchable. No wonder people freak out. We’re fish out of water.
Sure, we’ve evolved a legal infrastructure to deal with libel, slander and defamation. Those laws worked well in an era of the printing press, and sort of stretched to cover radio and television. But they are as ineffective against the Internet as copyright laws are in battling music piracy.
His solution? “It’s time we all just give up on the small fights and become more accepting of the indiscretions of our fellow humans. Because the skeletons are coming out of the closet and onto the front porch.”
It makes me think of a piece in The Austin Chronicle from last year, which predicted a move toward a more transparent society:
In 10 years’ time, no one will remember that racy photo you uploaded to your MySpace profile following a drunken collegiate revel, even though it will still be there, for those who care to dig down through the Web 4.0, 3.0, 2.0, hacking back through the digital crust into the ever-present past. Ten years from now, your twentysomething predilection for obscurantist Japanese hentai B&D porn will seem more quaint than sordid or even titillating: archaic, digital daguerreotypes with tentacles. Does it matter? Do we care? We’re digital pioneers birthing digital natives who will have to evolve, socially, psychologically, possibly physically, as fast as the data stream. Their very concepts of “self,” “community,” “privacy,” and the way they view and mirror their world – as individual people and as part of a far greater, online whole earth – will be as different from our current definitions of the same, as the Paleolithic cave paintings of Lascaux are to the digital artisans of EA or Rockstar Games. Long live the new unflesh? Maybe. Probably. Yes.
… Why not? As a species, we’ve been building walls and erecting boundaries, metaphorical and otherwise, since the apes in 2001: A Space Odyssey upgraded bones and blood for bricks and mortar. Why not start cyber-kicking holes in the fences, the fortresses, the prisons with which we’ve surrounded ourselves? Personal and societal self-discovery on an epic, historical scale appears to be finally within striking distance for much of the online world. Humanity’s me generation is being force-evolved by onrushing technology into some new state of we.
A few months later, the acclaimed author Paulo Coelho blogged about revealing shameful acts. He asked his readers to respond in the comments. The post is no longer available, but at the time, he received 195 responses.
It’s time we make like Ricky Martin, come out — and stay out.
Who wants to go first?