Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Michael Phelps takes a bong hit at a college party and pretty soon everybody in the world knows it.

It’s symbolic of the world we’re now living in, where the zone of privacy has shrunk down to nearly nothing. With cellphone cameras, cheap, small digital recorders and videocams, anything anybody does or says just about anywhere can be instantly disseminated via Youtube and other such media literally across the world.

Now, folks who live in small towns like Sisters already kinda know what that’s like. It doesn’t take long for news to travel in Sisters — and sometimes to get distorted out of all recognition as it goes.

A friend once told me that it was a real pain to be a single woman in Sisters because you can’t just have a cup of coffee with someone without the whole town knowing about it — and asking the inevitable questions.

Of course, it has ever been thus. The coconut telegraph has existed since there were coconuts and that’s a long, long time. Only a couple of generations ago, big cities were made up of neighborhoods where everybody knew everybody else and their business.
But new technology has amplified the small town effect beyond anything we’ve ever known.

What’s strange to me is that more and more people seem to be inviting the loss of their own privacy. Revealing intimate details of their lives to the whole world on Facebook and other social networking sites. Chattering about the minute details of their day-to-day on Twitter (why?).

Maybe it’s all just about making a connection. Maybe it’s just an attempt to assert the very fact of existence.

I am fully aware of the irony of bringing this up on a blog, by the way. A blog that I’ve spent way more time on this week than usual — and more than I’m comfortable with.

It all seems a little oppressive to me, even as I get caught up in it, mostly through my work. Much as I love my small town, I like to get away from it from time to time — kind of an anti-Cheers. I want to go where nobody knows my name and they couldn’t care less whether I’m there or not. The woods or some strange city. Nothing feels better to me than being out of cell phone or e-mail contact, just to disappear for a while.

But the rising culture seems to be fundamentally opposed to that, to be driven to 24/7 plugged in status. In a wired world, it’s hard to find a hideout.

Jim Cornelius, Editor

1 comment:

  1. I wouldn't worry about it too much. I think what's going to happen is that all information of this sort will become devalued, like flooding the market with pesos. Take the Phelps bong story. For the most part, no one really cared and not many sponsors jumped ship. In fact, Kelloggs actually got quite a bit of backlash for dumping him from stoners who believed that Kelloggs has been living off people with the munchies for years. The more there is and the faster it gets out there the less it will mean.