May 16th, 2010

breaking bad

A neighbourhood of voluntary spies

Hopefully if the weather is OK we are going to go on a big walk today, from Warwick to central Birmingham along the Grand Union canal. It's a bit hard to tell at the moment if the rain is coming.

Crooked Timber has one or two posts discussing this comment by Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, justifying his privacy-dismantling ways:
“You have one identity... The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly.” He adds: “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”
Kieran Healy disagrees: 'Having one identity is a breaching experiment'. That is, you might as a psychological test of yourself and others, attempt to behave invariantly amongst your many social audiences, but it would be perceived as provocative and aggressive.
Having an identity and having a secret are in fact quite closely related, and not just for superheroes.
And in a related post Henry adds:
one of the things I like about the Internets is that I can present myself in different ways. This isn’t the result of a lack of integrity – you need to present different ‘selves’ if you want to engage in different kinds of dialogue.
I think a certain amount of protection from the curiosity of our neighbours is necessary in order to allow people to be themselves. I am reminded of Jane Austen in Northanger Abbey:
"Remember that we are English.... where social and literary intercourse is on such a footing, where every man is surrounded by a neighbourhood of voluntary spies, and where roads and newspapers lay everything open. Dearest Miss Morland, what ideas have you been admitting?"
Austen presents this ambiguously. The oversight of others both protects and oppresses us.