Friday, August 14, 2009

Public is the new Private

An interesting thought...

"What’s the new what? I say Public is the new Private. Let’s face it, conversations that used to be conducted through private e-mail exchanges are now posted for all to see on facebook walls. Clothing that used to simply imply “I’m better than you” now actually says “I’m better than you”.

It’s gotten out of hand. For my generation, sharing information is no big deal. I no longer hesitate when I type my phone number and detailed plans for the evening on social networking sites. In fact, sending information through private channels has become unheard of, even out of style. The last time I got a Facebook message, I expected it to be SUPER juicy, since only I would be able to access it. Facebook messages are like emails, whereas wall posts are visible on your public profile. I thought the message would at least include a social security number, or perhaps a dirty comment about a backstabbing friend. Instead, the message was just a simple “what’s up” – this secretive “hello” almost offended me. I mean, who sends a hello message and doesn’t make it public? With wallposts such as “I went to this show last night and got so drunk, and then I hooked up with some hot guy named Jake and we spent $14.00 at the hookah bar on Mission…” there is really no need to send private messages.

Young people aren’t only publicizing extremely personal information online, but they’re broadcasting messages through their apparel and accessories. When I walked into Target last week I noticed a wide variety of handbags, the majority of which had messages emblazoned on the front. While t-shirts that say “Angel” or “Devil” on them have been on the rise over the last few years, it’s only recently that purses and jewelry joined in on the public display trend. Bags that used to have pretty patterns and delicate embroidery are now printed with things like “I AM NOT PLASTIC,” and “MY BABY’S DADDY BOUGHT IT FOR ME”. Whether the messages are about saving the environment, or random, they are almost always unnecessary.

The word “subtlety” is being drowned out by lewd and loud comments. We now know each other’s innermost desires (to one day publish a novel that Oprah selects for her book club) and greatest fears (to live alone with a house full of cats at the age of 75), whether we want to or not. There’s no denying it, in today’s day in age, transparency is definitely trendy. But I’m still quietly debating (on youtube, myspace and blogspot) whether public is in fact better than private."

"Is public the new private? It’s inspired by this photo I found on Tumblr this weekend.

Celebrities are used to living under the harsh glare of constant scrutiny, where even their rubbish bins are combed for the ultimate levels of personal information. But public living is starting to overflow into ordinary lives - mainly when a lot of people subscribe to a Twitter feed or Facebook status updates. Many people who don’t get Twitter, don’t understand the attraction of watching the micro patterns of a huge range of semi-strangers lives unfold in front of your eyes. Facebook is about subscribing to the lives of poeople you know. Twitter is about subscribing to the lives of people you don’t know. What constitutes oversharing on the public channel of Twitter?

This is an issue which is only going to get more intense as more and more people jump on Twitter and start talking about their workplaces, or better making witty and sarcastic comments at the said workplace’s expense. Leslie Nassar a.k.a. The Fake Stephen Conroy was “let go” from his employer Telstra when his real identity was revealed. A Telstra employee could not be seen to be sardonically depicting the Minister responsible for trying to impose an internet filter that Telstra supported and no-one wanted. Leslie is going to be talking about his experiences as the Fake Stephen Conroy in the Social Media Club Sydney’s first event on 27th April Authenticity and Transparency in Social Media.

A lot of the general issues arise around whether you want to be held accountable for what you say because of the archiving quality of the internet. If you say something nasty in a verbal conversation its easy to deny it or have it forgotten. There is an aspect of having to silo different parts of your life off depending on how publicly you want to live. There’s also an aspect of creating an alternate persona (by impersonating a celebrity, brand or magazine you naturally attract a lot of attention and people following. Long term, you will have to sustain the following through decent content, at least on a superficial level you may be able to attract on fake name alone) It’s also really hard when random people start taking pot shots at you on a public channel like Twitter and you are trying to hold it together and not engage in a public mud slinging.

Australia has a tiny population compared to Europe or the US and as a consequence our digital industry is a petri dish. It’s hard to forget that everyone working within it is practically known to everyone else. The ramifications can be quite dramatic if you manage to damage your reputation through carelessness, saying the wrong thing on a public channel and all of a sudden its brand x down the gurgler.

@RubyRose1 (an Australian MTV presenter) wanted to run away from Twitter based on a Daily Telegraph story about a conversation with Jess from the Veronicas. She could have DM’d Jess and not become tabloid fodder. She’s done the sensible thing now and locked her updates instead.

I am proud to out myself as an E! Channel E! News watcher. In the last 2 weeks or so there is at least one daily report of which celebrity is tweeting what to the masses. So a lot of angst of private being the new public relates to the equation:

- how famous/reputable you are
- relative to how private you want to keep your life
- relative to your awareness of who your talking to
- and what you are saying
- how public the channel is

I personally silo off different “roles” to different social networks. I like leaving Facebook for people I know personally and limit profile to work colleagues. Professional, career building stuff stays in LinkedIn. Twitter is a mixed bag of everything and is the closest to the real me. I have become a lot more conscious of Twitter’s public channel aspects lately but rather than deleting tweets, I’ll take the conversation to DM if I want to keep it private. I stand by everything I write online, ironically, I am far more straight up in person, in terms of expressing my personal opinions. Working in advertising, you never know who your next client is going to be - bummer if there’s an online rant that you can’t take back. So my non-celebrity life is nicely segmented into private vs public on 3 social networks, with some filtering."


  1. may be alike globalisation it's privacy publicalisation, where people want to publish their privacy and find some interest in someone's privacy going public...

  2. we all do this, i think sometimes its also an extremely personal to someone specific. its interesting because no one guesses the message, except the one who is meant to...

    this may be an extension of some other emotion in our non-cyber life...

  3. yea true.. something like publicly passing the message to the intended recipient...

  4. and this is a bit thrilling and naughty...

  5. that too with some nostalgic notions...

  6. I enjoyed the music of Kaminey...meri dastaan kamini,mere raaste kaminey,meri arzoo kamini,mere khwab kaminey,mere yaar kaminey,meri dosti kamini...

  7. Wake up Sid is going to release shortly.sorry for posting irrelevant comments:-)


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