Thursday, June 01, 2006

Privacy Please

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“I could never do that. I could never put my picture on Friendster or give people access to information about me on MySpace."

Candy is sitting across from me at Veselka in the East Village, drinking an Ukranian beer. Her skin is bronzed from weekends in the Hamptons and her hair is perfectly flipped out in frosted bleached tips. Even though she speaks with an heir of superiority, she looks over at her boyfriend after everything she says. He is a Republican, so I’m sure she’s afraid she will say the wrong thing and be banished from the bedroom .

“I just value my privacy too much.”

Republican drops his hand into Candy’s lap and squeezes her thigh under the table with pride. With his other hand, he lifts his beer but drops it from his lips to visually rape a young girl passing by in an uber short denim mini. My friend Skippy is busy scrolling through the messages on his blackberry and completely misses the mini skirted chippy.

Candy, the Republican and Skippy are three of the only people that I have met in New York City who are not on Friendster or My Space. Lately, it seems I can’t go out in NYC without hearing a version of, “I’ll Friendster you”. Who needs cards or digits in the age of Google, MySpace, and Friendster. I discovered the merits of Friendster at a wedding party in Los Angeles three years ago. Since then, while my use has ebbed and flowed, it is as reliable as my g-mail for a quick validation. See, I have friends, people like me, people view me.

Skippy rests his texting fingers for a moment and takes a swig of his beer.

“Isn’t Friendster sort of ‘out’ now anyways?”

“Yes. All of the cool people have moved over to My Space. That’s why I like Friendster.”

Candy’s boyfriend rolls his eyes. “Whatever. It’s all ridiculous. And I agree completely with Candy about the death of privacy.”

I laugh. “Republican, what have you got to be so private about? I mean, what’s all the fear about putting your profile on line? No offense, but it is not like you are Brad Pitt and people are stalking you. How is a Friendster profile going to ruin you?”

The Republican begins talking about stalkers and potential clients and all sorts of legal mumbo jumbo and I just sit back and let him fade into a hazy Charlie Brown undecipherable adult and I think how wonderful it is to not be the slightest bit ashamed about having my public life on the internet for anyone and their mother to peruse.

Jane has a blog.” Skippy sounds like he is telling on me to the teacher.

Candy and the guy who voted for Bush twice just stare at me.

“She was on a reality TV show too.”

Candy drops her jaw and the Christian Right registers shock and horror with raised eyebrows. But then he relaxes, and smiles.

“Candy was supposed to be The Bachelorette. Tell ‘em honey.”

“Well, they asked me if I would be on that show, The Bachelorette, and like, actually be The Bachelorette.” She straightens up her back a little. “But I just said no. I’m not going on National Television and making my life public like that.”

Now I really think Candy is full of shit and just saying this to impress her boyfriend, because women that act and look like Candy don’t turn down the chance to be The Bachelorette. Women who go to tanning booths, have French pediicures, spend an hour a day at the gym, purposely style their hair like Farrah Fawcet, go to places like Butter and wear low cut Marc Jacobs sweaters to an East Village eatery are exactly the type of women who want to be on reality TV. I can see her prancing on the Real World, making out with six guys in a hot tub after too many shots of Jagermeister.

I know, because I was once on a reality TV show. But i’m nothing like Candy.

“Do you really think your life is anymore private than mine? I can track the blogs you read at work, I can Google your name and find out your track scores from high school. You leave your receipt on the table at the restaurant and I have your credit card number. You use the same username and password for your news subscription as your bank account. I can get your job title from a PDF of attendees at your last alumni function. I mean if someone wanted this information, it’s not as if you are a secret.”

“Nice job Jane, but I don’t write my feelings on the internet. I don’t publish details of my last date for the world to see. I don’t have photos of my latest travels posted to My Space or Friendster. I didn’t spend ten weeks having my life filmed on national television and have people in the chat rooms talking about my bra size.”

“Republican, it’s not like I’m avoiding the Paparazzi at every turn. I’m nobody. No one cares about my life. And if a few people want to check out the inner workings of my brain then I‘m happy to have the company.”

“Bloggers are just narcissistic attention whores.”

I know that there is truth in what he is saying. But I can’t let the Right win tonight.

“Yeah you are probably right. Most of them are. But just like some Republicans aren’t judgmental homophobic Christian Right hypocrites, this blogger doesn’t fit that stereotype. I just like to write. I’m a writer. Blogging is a way for me to get my writing out there. Blogging is the only way to get my writing out there.”

Without diverting his eyes from his cell, Skippy throws his head up to give me a little support.

“She is a good writer.”

“Thanks Skippy. But I’m still not going to sleep with you tonight.”

“No worries hon. I’ve got three girls on deck already.’

I’m still not done with Wall Street boy. “What is more narcissistic, being afraid to put photos of yourself on the internet because you think everyone will be seeking them out to ruin you, or putting your thoughts and feelings out into a flooded forum where you are just one of a million?”

Seriously. Who are you afraid of? What are you afraid of? Am I so self-centered that I think there are people out there who will become taken by those pictures of me rolling pita on the floor in Bosnia that they will hunt me down and ask me out? Because those stories are pieces of me. I am proud of my past, my present and where I’m going in my future. So if someone else wants to read it, why should I care?

Writing is a magnificent conduit to the soul. It connects me to the friends I have met overseas, it allows me a forum to share my life with my family, it gives a woman alcoholic a voice in the blogoshpere, it is in itself cathartic and healing. It connects me to people and to a city that can be very lonely without connections. And the feedback makes me feel connected outside of myself, a piece of the world. So that even with consequences, I can’t imagine sacrificing my public life.

Ask me again when I am being dogged by Paparazzi and having to explain stories of my sketch past to a pack of journalist in the Rose Garden. But I somehow don’t think this is the path I’m on. No, I think the path I am on is leading me to a place where it is simply okay to be just your average Jane. Serene, connected, happy in my own skin.

After the bill is paid, Candy and Cheney go home together, Skippy zips off to Aer and his three ladies in waiting, and I walk off into the Village alone. But I’m not really alone. I have 167 friends on Friendster. And three of these friends are on the corner telling me to hurry up or we are going to be late for that party in Gramercy.

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posted by Pop Culture Casualty @ 6/01/2006 09:56:00 AM |

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