Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Three Ps of Online Indulgence - Alexandra Samuel - Harvard Business Review

This is the first article I've read in reaction to the Andrew Weiner controversy that looks at the legitimate issue of how to protect your online privacy.

Alexandra has some real insights into why people use the Internet for activities they might not want others to know about and rather than condemning those actions, she offers up some real-world advice for how to do it safely and without crossing over your own moral barriers.

Many knee-jerk reactions are that we just shouldn't indulge in this sort of thing. For that matter, don't do anything bad. Of course, the real world doesn't work that way.

Realistically, there are lots of regular people doing things online that they likely don't want to be "open" or "public" about. That's their right, and this article treats everyone with respect.

Here's an excerpt:
It's no accident that a notorious Twitter #fail comes from someone who is social media-savvy. It's a classic case of live by the sword, die by the sword: those who truly live their lives online are likely to bring their whole selves online with them. One part of that self may be the brilliant politician (or hilarious comedian, or compelling CEO, or articulate spokesperson) but it's likely that there are shadow selves too: The womanizer. The glutton. The partier. The gambler.

None of us is one thing only. We all have shadow selves. Offline society is set up to sanction and repress those, which is a necessary and valuable thing. Social judgment can help control compulsion or addiction: the raised eyebrow from a colleague who catches you checking out someone other than your spouse, the bartender who cuts you off.

The Internet, online society, on the other hand, allows us the elbow room to indulge, to explore our shadow selves without the same social pressure to behave. It does this by applying a veneer of anonymity and creating a sense of distance from our actions. Flashing, for example, is anti-social behavior and the vast majority of us wouldn't consider doing it in public, even with consenting partners. Yet, on NPR today, came a report of the high number of older married couples who are regularly sending explicit texts, despite the fact that it is, in a sense, flashing publicly.

Via The Three Ps of Online Indulgence - Alexandra Samuel - Harvard Business Review

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