The Big Question is Now: How Much to Share


 

Think of Charles Dickens and his seminal novel “David Copperfield.”

This is what Facebook is striving to become for all of us. Dickens’ novel follows David Copperfield from birth to adulthood and chronicles the trials and tribulations of a young gentleman in early Victorian England. His works, his love, his marriage – his life.

The first sentence is worth noting:

“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”

That’s a question all of us can ask about ourselves. And now our subscribers can answer it for us.

With its new “Timeline” interface (rolling out in a few weeks), Facebook will provide the platform for our lives to unfold on in real time.

If you watch the embedded video above its difficult to avoid feeling both tantalized and creeped-out at the same time. After all, who among us doesn’t want our achievements and our lives recognized and appreciated?  Yet who among us wants our lives published and read like a book that can be checked out of a library?

Especially if the narrative includes those awkward and embarrassing moments of life that we’d rather just forget.

But make no mistake, part of Facebook’s mission is to provide the platform for just such a narrative. Each of our profiles is becoming the story of our lives – both autobiographical (content added by us) and biographical (content added by friends and family). All of it coalescing into a single, real-time and interactive narrative about us – from birth to death.

Powerful stuff.

So now that the platform exists for our lives to be virtually chronicled – our movies, our music, our photographs and videos, our opinions, our books, our news sources, our humor, our personal and work lives, our hobbies and passions, our… well… our everything.  With all of that available there’s only one question left.

How much are we willing to share?

This is a big question – one that many of us are already grappling with – but now it becomes even more pressing. Do we want Facebook to know what movies we watch? What music we like? Is the ability to share this information and get recommendations from friends worth breaking down walls?

Is the convenience of having the Internet delivered right to us – customized and personalized – worth forsaking our privacy?

What will be the consequences for those who opted out? What will be the consequences for those who share too much? What is the balance between sharing and connecting with others and falling into a narcissistic trap of being overexposed to the world?

I wish I had the answers, but these are questions that all of us as a society will be trying to figure out in the years ahead.

Links:

Wikipedia entry for “David Copperfield”

Kara Swisher’s commentary on Timeline

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