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Charting the hazards of 'peep culture'

<p>What if I used this space to share something inappropriately personal?</p>

What if I used this space to share something inappropriately personal?


I constantly guard against offering too much of myself in this column. I know the circulation numbers. I know the score. I know that you, the person holding this paper, are likely a stranger.
That said, I am tempted to overshare online, lulled into a false sense of security that, on Facebook and Twitter, I am “among friends.”


My overshares are generally benign minutiae. (“This egg salad sandwich is so awesome!”) But many who overshare do it without a filter.


Chances are you would never tell a stranger on the bus about a graphic medical condition or the details of your divorce. And, yet, these are all things that people have shared on Facebook, on message boards and on their blogs.


What is it that compels us to overshare online?


“We are in an age where we repeatedly see the purported benefits of oversharing. I call it ‘peep culture,’” says Hal Niedzviecki, author of the recently published book The Peep Diaries: How We’re Learning To Love Watching Ourselves And Our Neighbors.


“In pop culture, we are entertained by chosen celebrities who perform for us. In peep culture, we are entertained by random people around the world who let us peep into their lives. These are the friends, family, and strangers we spend time looking at on Facebook, blogs, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, reality TV, Chatroulette, etc. The more we see (oversharers) being rewarded with attention, extended networks, even money and celebrity, the more it becomes natural for us to overshare and see if we, too, can enjoy some of the benefits…”


Oversharing is a way to get attention, certainly (See: Tila Tequila). But what about those who use social media to rally support during a difficult time? And what if that information falls into less-than-kind hands?


“It’s a dangerous thing to use your life and other people’s lives as mass media entertainment,” says Niedzviecki. “It becomes very easy to forget that these are real people with real lives ... what they say and do, and what you say and do in response, can really hurt them. We’re extending a natural human tendency — to share, to reach out and connect with others — into a very unnatural space…”


Before broadcasting your life, consider the consequences of offering pieces of yourself to anyone who will listen.

 
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