Human beings have centuries of experience keeping their mouths shut and to not always say what they are thinking. Some people still have a problem determining what should be said and what should only be thought. Even when someone slips and says something that he shouldn’t have said, he usually catches himself and takes it back or feels bad about it after realizing. The online world is a completely new place that we are just getting to know. The average person has been online for less than a decade and a half. Social networks have been around for about a third of that and have only been popular for much less.
When it comes to keeping our mouths shut, our parents have been telling us to do it for years as their parents did for them and so on. Our parents and grandparents never told us not to write things down, in fact, many parents suggested writing things down as opposed to saying them. Things that were written down were safer than things that were spoken. Even with the invention of the typewriter and then later the computer, the user still had complete control of the content produced. You can write whatever you want and hide it in a drawer, tear it up or burn it and no one would ever see it.
Taking Writing Public
When writing a story or an assignment for school, the author had the opportunity to revise it as many times as he liked before submitting it. Even when passing notes in class, it was just between 2 people with a 99% chance that no one else would ever see it. A 1% chance or even a little more is a risk that most people are willing to take.
Taking Writing Even More Public
I’m not sure why but speaking and writing are very different. In most cases, a person can have a conversation with a friend without pausing to think about what they want to say. When having a conversation via an instant messenger online, people often have to think about what they want to say before typing it and often type and delete before they hit enter to send their message. That may be one of the reasons that Google Wave shut down their development as was announced last week. Google Wave, a product they launched to combat email and invested a ton of resources into made conversation so public that everyone in the wave saw the words as your were typing them, not giving you a chance to delete and retype. If you had to think about what to write, everyone else in the wave knew exactly how long you were thinking. I’m sure there were many reasons that Wave didn’t catch on but I think a big part of it may be that we are just not ready for it yet. We are not ready to give up that much control yet. When it comes to technology, we don’t know how to keep our mouth shut yet.
And Even More Public
On social networks, things are a little bit different. The networks (especially Facebook) are set up by default to be as public as possible. When you tell something to a friend in real life, there is a chance that someone will overhear it and even repeat it but online, everyone in the world will have a chance to check out exactly what you had to say from the original source because once you post it, it is there forever. For some reason, people still feel that some areas of the Internet are intimate enough to have conversations or post pictures without thinking about the consequences.
Because of these social networks, people have been caught slacking off at work, cheating at school, defrauding their insurance, cheating on their spouses and playing Farmville. It is not natural or second nature for us yet, to keep our mouths shut and filter what should be public and what should be private online. This generation is beta testing conversation online. We are the guinea pigs that are figuring out what is acceptable and what is not in this new technological and open world. I am sure that the next generation will have rulebooks and accepted practices for online behaviour to which people will adhere. I am positive that the next generation of parents will instil modern common sense into their children and teach them how to keep their mouths shut online because they would have grown up with it and seen the consequences firsthand. Until then, be very careful how you behave online and think twice before posting anything that you may regret later on.Pic Credit: Hamed Saber