You know, there really is something intriguing about all this Web 2.0 malarky. I'm not talking in a tag driven, collaborative virtual application way (ok, you got me, I couldn't think of a way to get Ajax and Ruby On Rails in there), but in the way that with all this freedom of data, I can just be plain nosey.
Everyone these days is a blogger, using flickr, listening to last.fm, posting on MySpace, Digg-ing this and del.icio.us'ing that. People are permalinking each other, adding friends, commenting and recommending music until their poor little fingers bleed. All these of course link to more and more people again until you realise you're hopping from person to person like a virus and building a picture of their entire lives.
"Link to an eBay auction and their purchase history is right there, listing everything from cute little porcelain puppies to a new pair of Golf shoes. I'm hooked."
If you're the inquisitive type like me, entire evenings can be whittled away just by starting somewhere relatively innocent, like MySpace. Obviously it's a veritable minefield out there but stumble on the right page and you really can end up down the proverbial rabbit hole.
Picture this; a site which was just an average twenty-something's MySpace page, with a blog on it. I get reading and it turns out she's not going to university because she wants to stay in town and get a job, so she can hang out with her friends who aren't going away. After reading this, like reading a work of fiction, you suddenly find yourself becoming emotionally involved with the situation. It's true, Rachel really is being a bitch about the fact she wants to stay and Emily, who recently split up with her boyfriend, has said she'll rent a flat with her if it'll help her out. I like Emily, she sounds like a good friend and her boyfriend sounds like a complete idiot, especially if his own blog is anything to go by. It has a hell of a lot of comments on it from other girls, positive comments. I can't believe he's not followed up on a few of those offers behind her back.
It doesn't stop there, some tag their Xbox 360 gamercards onto their site and I can take a look at what games they're playing and how good they are at them. Link to an eBay auction and their purchase history is right there, listing everything from cute little porcelain puppies to a new pair of Golf shoes. I'm hooked.
By now, I'm reading the blog of everyone involved, I'm building up a matrix of friends and enemies, with a detailed analysis of how they feel about each other from their various comments. It begins to get even more interesting when these people link to their last.fm accounts and Flickr photostreams. Now I know what they look like, who their friends are, what kind of parties they have, what car they drive and how sunset looks over the river you can see from their local park.
Last.fm tells me what music they're listening to; Rachel is no surprise and listens to the kind of rebellious pop trash which you would expect of her. Emily is more subdued and seems to be listening to several bands recently which aren't on her ex-boyfriends list. The week before that of course, it was a different story as they spend time listening to love songs.
Ok, none of the above is actually true. These people don't exist, and for good reason, largely because I don't want to come across as a psycho stalker. However, I do know that the above is not only possible, but I've certainly spent time following the lives and loves of people online. Their stories unfold like untangling a knot of cables, with every fiddly step finding links back to someone else, or a whole new line to follow in itself until it all unravels and you find out where everything actually goes.
This is what I find so confusing. We live in a day of privacy, anonymity, where identity fraud, grooming, cyberstalking and online bullying are not only rife, they're serious concerns for everyone. Yet so many people seem to be happy to share their innermost feelings with everyone on the Internet. I don't know these people, but some of them I feel like I could meet in a pub and tell them more about their lives than some of their friends.
Is that right, doesn't that bother
people? So many posters say "Don't judge me, you don't know me!" whilst simultaneously blogging about how much they hate the Xbox, Fast Food, Asian people or the Government.
Don't I know you?
"It's a world of virtual one-upmanship where people battle with their dreams, desires and emotions in order to look more interesting than the rest of the world."
In short, I don't think it does bother people. The desire to be famous, open and honest... the drive to be someone, anyone that people talk about on the Internet washes all that away and in the end the only thing that matters is having more friends, sexier pictures and cooler music tastes than everyone else.
We're witnessing a war of virtual one-upmanship where people battle using the weapons of dreams, desires and emotions in order to look more interesting than the rest of the world. Who else went through their teen years assuming no-one understood them? Now millions of us can understand the young adults of today.
And the scary part? It's compelling. It's a real-life teen movie where, to the hollywood rose-tinted viewers, no-one really gets hurt and there's always a happy ending... Or is there?
I always said you'd achieved something when you had a biography written about you, because an autobiography of Joe User would simply be really boring. Now, everyone
is writing an autobiography of their lives which, when they die, will be a more complete and accurate representation of themselves than a simple book could ever hope to convey.