The Peep Diaries: An eye opening look into how much we share online

PeepingHave you ever wondered why you bother to share things online? People complain about privacy issues all the time, yet willingly post every facet of their lives on sites that are designed to have that content shared.

The Peep Diaries by Hal Niedzviecki was sitting on my bookshelf for quite a while after I’d won it in a contest run by the CBC show The Passionate Eye. I originally watched the documentary Peep Culture, which is a great example of looking into why we do what we do online. The book, while covering many of the examples in the documentary, delves deeper into the subject.

The Peep DiariesNiedzviecki defines “peep culture” early in the book:

“Peep culture is reality TV, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, MySpace and Facebook. It’s blogs, chat rooms, amateur porn sites, virally spread digital movies of a fat kid pretending to be to be a Jedi Knight, cell phone photos – posted online – of your drunk friend making out with her ex-boyfriend, and citizen surveillance. Peep is the backbone as Web 2.0 and the engine of corporate and government data mining. It’s like the famous line about pornography: you know it when you see it. And you do see it. Al the time, every day, everywhere.”

As you can tell by the MySpace reference, the book is a tad dated. It can be distracting in some cases where he discusses numbers or tools like MySpace which are no longer popular. Regardless of the tools, the examples he uses still make sense.

Throughout the book Niedzviecki looks at many different ways in which “peep” is invading our lives. From online voyeurs creating a separate identity, to reality TV and how surveillance has evolved from taboo to downtown streets to fodder for YouTube viewers.

He paints an interesting picture to show that through these different outlets we’re looking to build that sense of community that was lost in the age of “me”. When communities were closer knit, privacy didn’t exist nearly as much as it does today, if at all. We always had someone to share with, or protect us from bad seeds, but now that’s all changed.

He brings up a great point in that we’re putting out all this content in the context of connecting with like-minded individuals, but in reality the info we post is used by larger companies to make money. Why must we share everything online? What did you do before blogs, Facebook and Twitter started invading your life? Could you stop today if you had to?

The more I read, the more I thought about why I like to participate in online communities. While I do keep a lot offline, I’m open about who I am and the issues I believe in. I like to share that with others online who are willing to have a conversation about any of those topics. I’m not about having a double identity or someone that posts daily videos of themselves; it’s just simply connecting with others and learning from them, or sharing my own knowledge/experiences.

The Peep Diaries does a great job of starting the conversation about privacy and how much we’re willing to give up for a sense of community. It would seem that society is moving toward that Big Brother scenario, except we’re all watching each other, and more and more people are willing to go along with the ride without questioning it. I give it a 4/5.

Facebook just got a lot creepier thanks to Catfish [SPOILER]

If you’ve seen the movie Catfish you’ll know what I mean.

It all started when Rel somehow got into contact with this kid Abby who was a child painter. He then became pen pals with her online, with the permission of her Mom, Angela. Eventually he got to know the entire family on Facebook, including Abby’s older sister Megan.

Rel began falling in love with Megan, but issues popping up, including supposed cover songs she’d send him that turned out to be YouTube videos with the same song covered. At this point (I believe), Rel’s brother and friend decided to make the documentary. Further events led to them making a trip to Michigan where Abby and her family lived. Here’s where the twist comes in.

Chris Bumbray from puts it the best in a quote from the trailer: “The final forty minutes of the film will take you on an emotional roller-coaster ride that you won’t be able to shake for days.”

After The Ellen Show clip is the spoiler part, so if you’re not reading on, I really enjoyed this movie and minus the first hour or so, it was one of the best movies of the year in my books. I give it a 4.5/5

After confronting Angela, the movie went from creepy to sad. She was a woman who had given up a lot in life to raise her husband’s boys that required 24/7 care because due to their mental and physical issues. As a painter she came up with the idea of contacting Rel from his photograph that appeared in major publications. Eventually it spiraled out from there.

Forget privacy concerns with Mark Zuckerberg, Angela was able to make a bunch of profiles using fake addresses and pictures of family members/friends, just for the sole purpose of gaining Rel’s companionship (that’s the best way I can describe it). It seemed so easy to fall pray to fall pray to this, which is most scary. She would take to the computer every night after 11pm and go to work updating her various profiles. She kept three phones on hand – one for Megan and the other two for when she was herself.

Facebook is usually for people we know, so when he got to know Abby’s mom, he added her and eventually her family. This opened Rel up to the game Angela was playing. It got me thinking about how rare this could be? Are there a lot of people out there being fooled by these fake accounts? Have you experienced this?

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