Perfect Strangers: I Think We're Alone Now.

iChat Image(688718845)
iChat Image(688718845)

Walking down the street yesterday I was joined by a female companion. We had never met before, and we didn’t introduce ourselves, but we walked side-by-side for several blocks. She was on her cellphone in what can only be considered a “personal” conversation with her friend. As I walked along side her, at a curiously synchronous pace, I was struck by how much she was divulging, not to her friend, but to me.

I know we were complete strangers, and I know I was completely irrelevant, but these were VERY juicy details. Harlequin love novel details. Make sailors blush type of details. And I know she was aware that I was there, so the question is, why didn’t she feel a need for privacy when discussing this? It seemed that she could not care less that I was as equally informed about her love life as her best of friends.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m a pretty shameless person. I only make this point to express that I am not a prude in regards to sexual topics. That isn’t why this is significant, no, instead this is significant because I think it is indicative of a larger shift in what constitutes a sense of privacy (and maybe propriety).

This wasn’t the first time I’ve overheard a phone conversation which divulged what would otherwise be considered private details about people. However, it stood out due to a recent discussion about internet privacy. This girl would not have been comfortable sharing all of these details on her facebook page. She wouldn’t have posted a status update that read “You will not believe what I just did...” Why then was she comfortable enough to say it when I could hear it?

Anonymity.

The internet has given many people a forum where, in many or most place, they can exist with a sense of anonymity. People can post their true opinions on forums. They can bash people in comment sections. They can confess their unrequited love to someone. They can do all this, and much more, without anyone ever knowing who they really are. Sure they know that “TurtleSlapper69” said something, and might even be able to read other things that “TurtleSlapper69” has said, but they won’t be able to tie those things back to the real person in their apartment sitting at their computer covered in Cheeto crumbs.

The point is that people’s comfort level and ability to exist in anonymous scenarios online might be starting to bleed into real life. Consider the scenario above. For all intents and purposes, I was as anonymous to this woman as any person commenting on a website she might visit. She had no idea who I was, and even though we were walking together for an unusually long stretch, she knew that as soon as she turned a corner we would likely never see each other again (or if we did, we wouldn’t remember the original scene.) She felt no shame in saying exactly what she wanted to say to her friend because, in regards to me, she was completely anonymous.

The internet has allowed us to establish a new set of social mores around anonymous interactions. It’s given us a forum to practice. And it’s offered us high profile examples of how it can go awry. As a result our sense of propriety around insignificant strangers has shifted.

Or maybe this was just an extremely unabashed woman, one who is very sexually liberate – I can’t really be sure. But, that’s not how I saw it.

Post By Joey Camire Photo From Hear It Snap