More Thanh Words

"My name is Thanh and I'm a Blogger". Now that I have admitted to that, I can say that I'm a stereotypical "geeky" Engineer who enjoys sci-fi books and movies and into all things technological. I also love music and have a passion for FOOD. I'm a social person and like to talk to people. I hate people who are fake or overly aggressive. If you're also into some serious discussion, with a pinch of sarcasm and a dash of real emotion, then please read on.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

All Laid Bare

Firstly, how long has it been since my last post? It sure has been a while. I haven't really felt the urge to write. I guess being busy at work and also going quite consistently to the gym has meant a lack of time and energy to sit down and write. Oh well, this blog was always meant to be a way to say what I wanted to say when I wanted to say it, so here goes.

The interesting topic of privacy and how the Internet has changed people's privacies forever is currently on my mind. Unless you're living under a rock, it's hard not to have some Internet prescence whether you like it or not. I'm sure we've all Googled ourselves, and seen what comes up. The fact that one's life can be viewed by everyone can be problematic. Actions that seem like good ideas at the time (Paris Hilton and "that night vision video") can be available for anyone to see. Unlike a hard copy of something, once out in cyberspace, it's hard to ever completely remove.

The growth of social media like Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Friendster etc has meant that more and more of our private information is floating out there. And the ironic part is that most of the time, we put it up myself. I must admit that I have quite a lot of information floating out there about me. I have a Facebook account, I blog about my thoughts, I'm on forums. The problem is that although technology has advanced, society is still yet to catch up with it in terms of our behaviour. Just like the medical field which has advanced to cloning animals, the ethics and people's attitude towards it is still in chase mode. The same exists for online expression about oneself. We do it without thinking about all the possible ramifications and how the information can be used, or sometimes misused.

Only slowly are people starting to realise that an online image can affect one's real life image and life. Numerous news reports have surfaced about people getting fired from their jobs after posting Facebook messages about their work. Relationships have been broken up due to one partner seeing photos of their significant other with a third party. For some reason, our minds have not yet come round to the fact that whatever we do online is there for all to see, and the consequences may come a long time after we've acted.

This whole situation has piqued my interest because of a work mate, who I've gotten to know lately. His interest (as he calls it) in all aspects of other people's lives troubles me slightly. It just seems unnatural to be so interested in other people's lives. I call it nosy, but he disagrees. We may both be right, as I'm projecting my views on his actions according to my own feelings. But recently, he's started reading my blog, and that's brought to my attention how figuratively bare I am as I've written a lot about myself on this blog. So while he will know a lot about me, I won't know much about him. That somehow makes me feel vulnerable. I guess it comes back to our primeval instincts as the more you know about someone, the more advantage you have over them and hence can win any battles.

In modern society, battles could take the form of creating bias between friends, gaining the upper hand in office politics, bullying others online or any other number of advantages. I'm not saying that he would do that, but his increased knowledge of me does give him an upper hand should he choose to. Why this troubles me now as opposed to previously when other friends read this blog as well puzzles me. Whatever I've written isn't exactly state secrets and I was happy for people to read previously, but yet now I feel uneasy about this particular work mate reading it. I think it's because my biased view that no one can genuinely be so interested in other people's actions without some alterior motive is clouding my judgement. The fact that we've also gone from not talking to each other to "best-friends" (as we both jokingly state all the time) in a month means that I don't really know whether I can trust him yet, while at the same time we are expecting each other to answer questions truthfully on a variety of topics. Therefore, I see his increased knowledge of me as something that I should fear.

It would seem the easy solution to protect oneself is just not to divulge information online. But that too contradicts with human emotions. Naturally, most people crave attention, and like being talked about by others. The way to do that is to talk (or write) about oneself and let others know. Most status updates on Facebook are self ego stroking displays. The more cryptic the message, the more people will inquire about it as human curiosity kicks in. That is exactly the outcome that people want, so to gain attention, you have to lay a bit of yourself bare (figuratively) for others to see. This act is regularly brought up by musicians, who say that a song they write exposes themselves and it's a very scary thing. If people hate it, it's a part of you that they're hating. Hence, there is a fine balancing act between giving out enough information to gain attention, and yet witholding some that you don't feel comfortable with people knowing. Knowing where that line is is the difficult part.