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Response: “What is Sticky Enough? Blogging and Privacy” (Revision)

Solove reminds that blogs are public – even those believed to be “a needle in the electronic haystack of cyberspace” can be and are read by people for whom they were not intended (51). After pointing out how wrongful the assumption that only “friends and family” will read our blog posts is, Solove talks about the manners in which information spreads on the Internet. A piece of information, he claims, in order to be disseminated, needs to be “sticky” – it has to be “contagious” enough for people to link it and share it (61).

While the attitude of the bloggers towards how much of their life they reveal online might have changed in the six years after The Future of Reputation was published, there is no tendency for an alteration in the innate curiosity for juicy details from other people’s lives. If Jessica Cutler had decided to write about trees in the Siberian subarctic instead of her sexual escapades, her blog would not have been shared as much and it would definitely not reach the popularity it did. This, of course, does not mean that people are interested only in other people’s lives; yet the “contagious” aspect of the piece of information seems to grow proportionally with the level of disclosure.

Solove offers another explanation for the popularity of such blogs: the public self has a reputation of being less genuine than the private self (68). In other words, the fact that people do not reveal everything about themselves is often interpreted as artificiality. This claim makes those who feel comfortable with sharing everything from their lives more popular, since they are seen as “the real thing”. And if the information happens to be of the kind Jessica decided to share, the number of views would increase even more rapidly.

Whereas the opportunity not to disclose some information is seen by Solove as an advantage, as it allows no negative influence of the past mistakes on the present (72), the “members of Facebook’s radical transparency camp” mentioned in The Facebook Effect are convinced that the level of tolerance in the society will raise if people shared more. They claim that if we are able to read everything about everybody, we will realize that everybody has done embarrassing things, which will lead to a more tolerant society (Kirkpatrick 211). I wonder what this new society would consider “sticky” information.

Works cited:

Solove, Daniel J. “Gossip and the Virtues of Knowing Less.” The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and  Privacy on the Internet. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007. 50-75. Print.

Kirkpatrick, David. The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2010. Print.

 

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