When I read Jon Mitchell’s post on Glassmap, my first thought was, “Who in God’s name would want anyone, even friends, knowing where they were all the time?” I wondered if this were a generational thing and to some degree, it probably is. But there’s something more.
My life is interesting enough, even in its dull patches, that I would be mortified if you know where I was at any given time in a day. And plus, no offense, but if you were interesting enough to deserve that knowledge, I would already have given it to you.
You do not want to know what I get up to in a day.
I did not come to social consciousness during the build up of self-broadcasting. I was well and truly whole by the time blogging and location tech started to rise above the horizon. What appealed to me most with the advent of social media was the ability to publish. That is to say, the power to register my opinions or achievements in the public sphere without mediation. Also appealing, though somewhat less so, was the ability it gave me to watch what others desired to publish. Finally, the dialogic function of social media has also had its appeal.
What is not appealing is the act of entering into a persistent state of electronic situation. I do not understand the appeal of existing in a constantly-knowable state. One of the greatest joys in my life is in becoming unknowable.
appealing is the act of entering into a persistent state of electronic situation. I do not understand the appeal of constantly existing in a constantly-knowable state. One of the greatest joys in my life is in becoming unknowable. In fact, for me, the desirability of a location increases in direct proportion to its power to camouflage and anonymize the self. New York City is the greatest city in the world for no other reason than it allows me to retain my self-awareness while simultaneously allowing me to collapse your ability to know me against my will to zero.
Although I am also concerned with issues of privacy – control over my information – I am more distressed by issues of location. Any data I produce, on purpose or unwillingly, is going to give you, at best, an imperfect picture of me. Probably it will give you a largely fictitious picture. That makes me jump up and down and laugh and clap my hands together like a tiny child at Christmastime. But being able to locate me in time and space and assign a valid name to me? That is creepy to the crawliest of degrees. The notion that people are out there allowing that to happen to themselves on purpose makes me want to open a home for abused app-users.
Glassmap and its ilk are like avalanche beacons for the ego, constantly broadcasting a signal to prove its user exists; cheeping incessantly as though, were it to stop, its user would cease to possess any existence at all. It also removes any opportunity to make the single most exciting offer one person can make another, “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”
Foursquare was bad enough, Path and Twitter and their pickpocketing even worse, but Glassmap and its ilk are like the Jim Rose Circus.* I just have to ask, who would do that to themselves?
Photos courtesty Shutterstock.
*Told you I was old.