You can view, but don’t touch

There is something very creepy that has always in lurked around in this vehicle we call the Internet.

There is a grave danger that our lives and indeed our personalities can be penetrated from outside the safety of our keyboards and Internet screens.  Human nature seems to have adapted itself in the most peculiar fashion with online activity.  Gone are all the politeness and good manners that normally surround us in the “real world” where interaction is face-to-face.  Online we can be brash and rude while stripping back the formalities and social manners that bond us together in the real world.

Like millions of other people I have been a member of Facebook for some years now.  A seemingly useful tool for finding and sometimes making friends.  These are people that possibly we might have known for a short time some years ago and now, thanks to the wonder of the Internet, despite the fact they are thousands of miles away or maybe just in the next town, these people become ‘friends’. But they’re not the sort of companions that we generally socialise with, they are just there day in day out adding their little bit to the tittle tattle that makes this social website what it is.

Because we interact with them on a daily or even hourly fashion through bulletins on the “wall” there’s a very high possibility that these new friends, or these acquaintances that have been renewed, do in fact become more familiar than some other people we meet in real life.

In a way it’s quite good to have these people we kind of know as ‘friends’. We can switch someone off, we can be as base or rude as we like.  We can flirt and chat with them. We can “like” what they say.  We can vehemently disagree with what they say in a manner that we dare not do in the real world.  And at the end of the day we can log off and forget the whole triviality until the next day.

But what happens when the friendship seems to carry on and on and on and the manner in which these people interact does in fact become quite impossible.  How much are you prepared to give away to this online collection of acquaintances that you have not seen in real life or have never actually even met?  Are you prepared to expose yourself completely?  After all they are hundreds of miles away, they only have the most basic information about you and where you are and so the value of their friendship is only as deep as the frequency of you logging on to the Internet.

From my point of view since having my own website back in 1998 I have been very wary of the information that I give away.  ianwaugh.com reveals only a thin layer of my real life.  I tell people what I’m interested in, a little bit about my life and that is enough.  I am not prepared to reveal or expose to the online community my private feelings, my personal life, my emotions or indeed my relationships.  All of the latter is reserved purely for one or two friends that I have nurtured over the years in my real life.  But having said that I feel in a way that I’m quite generous in exposing my interests, my career (to a point) and my politics.  Beyond all of that I am not prepared to show to another human being through the wonder of the Internet any further information.

For those who wish to pour out their hearts, expose every bodily detail and cry outwardly online – that is your choice.  For those who wish to curse and swear, abuse and slander like bullies behind your computer screen at the other end of the Internet I wish you well in your efforts but I have to tell you something, you are a very sad and pathetic person.

There is of course a very positive side.  Sometimes I feel quite lucky interacting with people who are extremely interesting indeed, either professionally or socially.  Some of these people are very good writers,  extremely brilliant at expressing themselves and portraying a good unbalanced view.  I have become acquainted with one or two of these (and no, I am not going to name them!).  I look forward to what they have to write and comment about.  Others are very interesting and display extraordinary talents through the power of the Internet.  Indeed “being on line” can be a very powerful tool if you want to get your word across.  It enables you to battle with the big boys whilst the world looks on.  A recent example of that was a friend of mine (a friend in the real world!) who took on the power of Google, won his case and as a result has made a significant cultural difference to the way in which his fellow countrymen use the Internet and how others can translate.

So, “being online” should never be underestimated.

From my point of view the Internet is a wondrous device.  I use it for every aspect of my life from banking, for writing, for communicating, for shopping – you name it.  I no longer need to enter a bank, I don’t have to go to the post office and I never go to a shop.  I can find deals online, totally control my micro finances, pick and choose from the wide range of businesses and retailing.  I use the Internet as a telephone, to write to people and to watch television.  From a professional point of view I do not necessarily need to be in a certain country to monitor and listen to my colleagues.  If I want to hold a meeting I sit in front of my WebCam at a predetermined time and talk to my colleagues in Tokyo, Valletta and Berlin simultaneously without ever having to be in the same room.

I love the Internet and in a way it has boosted my life but I will never let ‘IT’  get carried away or over friendly.  The Internet really is a good friend, but it’s only a cyber chum and as such I keep it at arm’s length.

Ian Waugh