Jeff Jarvis on the Risk of Putting Our Lives Online

Question: Is there a risk to putting so much personal information online?

Jeff Jarvis: No, it’s a rather scaredy cat way to look at things. So what if it’s online, so what if it’s on the phone, so what if it’s on the street? It’s life and what we forget about the internet is that it actually, I think, makes life in some ways more intense and more social.

You know as I was testing search engines through the years, I would use, like other guys, the friends of my old girlfriend’s name and I would go through and search my girlfriends. Most of them didn’t have any Google shadow. I have a long Google shadow because I have a blog and a big ego; but one of my old girlfriends found me. Now that could not have happened before Google and we had conversations and I apologized for being a bad guy in the old days, and that was kind of a gift.

But as I thought about this, I realized that living online with these constant connections could even change the nature of friendship. If I were 17 years old today, and I was bad to my high school girlfriend, that’s going to leave me because she’s going to know where I am, I’m going to know where she is, I can’t get away from her; and I almost wonder whether that changes the way I behave.

The President of Google has said that perhaps we need to have a law that allows us to all change our names at age 21 so we can forget the past. But we won’t be able to. So our past will stay with us and I think that will make us better behaved. And when we’re badly behaved, well you know what, we have mutually assured humiliation because I had my drunk picture and you have your drunk picture and that’s life. So what’s the big deal?

Inhaling or not inhaling won’t be so important in the Presidential campaigns as we go forward.

So living online means we’re living with people. It’s a mistake to think that the internet is a medium, that’s media people projecting their view of the world on the internet. The internet is not, it’s a connection machine.

Doc Searls the blogger says it’s a place where we talk. So when you realize that the internet is really about connecting people with information and people with each other. It intensifies life, it’s better to have it. I get to meet people around the world I never could have met, I get to stay in touch with old friends I couldn’t have done, I get to do more business, I get to hear more ideas. The internet is a distilled life, it’s a wonderful life, it’s more efficient. I’m not worrying about what the programmer put on TV today, I’m choosing my own stuff. So living on the internet, I think, is living much better.

Recorded on: April 30, 2008

That, Jarvis says, is a scardy-cat way of looking at it.

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