You Are What Your Profile Is

If she were still alive, this would be Mansfield's profile pic.

J. P. Morgan famously lashed out at them. J. D. Salinger was all the more famous for his aversion to them. The last moments of Bismarck and Diana were marred by them. Only last week I wrote about Jackie O.’s lifelong spat with them. Photographers, photography and privacy. They had a tormented struggle together, and there were a lot of iconic photos that came out of this.

Evidences and indiscretions were exposed. Some careers and lives were tragically destroyed. All of this happened before the arrival of the internet, but the latter greatly facilitated it. When Jayne Mansfield flashed at photographers, it was sensational, but when we see 20,345th photo of Britney Spears or Amy Winehouse doing something stupid, it is time to stop and ask ourselves, “Do we really want to see [insert a third-rate celebrity name]’s bedroom antics?”

This incoherent mess of a blog post is inspired by reading three stories in past 24-hours This weekend, New York Times Magazine published an article called The Web Means the End of Forgetting. It is extremely insightful, and forced me to reconsider what content I am putting online. The second article was on Gawker — not the apex of reporting — and describes the arrest of yet another(!) Russian spy in America, coupled with screenshots from her facebook, and notes those pictures suggest “she likes slutty Halloween costumes and pointing at the camera when she’s drunk.” Sounds typical 20-something to me, but this is apparently news. Lastly, the Independent reports that the Russian media chanced upon a photograph of the Georgian Minister Vera Kobalia in a nightclub and accused Georgia of appointing “strippers” to the cabinet. How did they chance upon this photo (which was made 10 years ago)? Of course, it was on Ms. Kobalia’s facebook. And this is just a week’s worth of ‘iconic’ happenstances on facebook. Such incidents and indiscretions galore… and there are even websites dedicated to this sort of sell-out-thy-friend cyberbullying.

Privacy remains a thorny issue; and social networking adds more complexity to it but what really was not helping here is Facebook’s privacy settings. You want to share the photos from a fun night, but can you trust all of your 2161 friends? Newsmen once used to bribe servants of celebrities to stalk them or go through their trash. Now, they just need to call someone who is friends with them on facebook. Or better yet, add him/her as a friend.

I don’t know about the age composition of this blog, but if I have to guess, I will say most readers are older than me. I don’t know whether the older generations react with amusement, consternation, or aplomb to all this. Personally, I don’t know how to react either. You can’t live without facebook, and even if you don’t post photos of yourself, you can’t prevent others from posting. No matter whether you detag or ask your friend to take them down, the photos will always be online thanks to facebook’s labyrinthine rules.

I very seriously doubt I would have gotten my current job if I apply for it today. Three-quarters of companies now do facebook checks on applicants. Once, life was not solely about accomplishments but also about potentials. Today, it is about indiscretions and what you do outside of 9-to-5. In a world where globalization has opened up new markets, careers and opportunities, we have ironically become a society that never let our pasts go.

Sorry if this post comes off as a rant, but I worry that, if this virtual scarlet letter trend continues, the next generation’s leaders will be today’s blandest, most boring people.

24 thoughts on “You Are What Your Profile Is

  1. I’ll second XC.

    Also, it’s not the photos on social networking sites, it’s the spin they are given -that’s what ends careers.
    Some people are getting scot-free with mountain of legitimate evidence of wrongdoing (see: current Oval Office tenant), others have to watch every step made not just by them, but by their teenage children…

  2. “The next generation’s leaders will be today’s blandest, most boring people.”

    What do you mean by “next”

  3. I don’t know how old you are, but I’m 31. I’m always careful what photos I post. If I take pictures of my friends kids, I generally don’t post them on flickr or facebook (least not if the kids recognizable). I never really had drunken party days, but even the few times I did, there wasn’t a camera around. Now every cell phone has a camera.

    For me, at least, there’s an awareness that if I twitter something. or post a pic, someone will read it. Is that ultimately good or bad, I don’t know.

  4. If she weren’t showing that nipple, possibly, but I think she’s choose a film still, maybe this from Too Hot to Handle in 1960: http://www.imdb.com/media/rm1130600448/tt0053365

    Not sure what age group you’re concerned about “whether the older generations react with amusement, consternation, or aplomb to all this” but it’s all absolutely fine by me.

    There seems no discernable outbreak of societal blandness due to Facebook or any other social media, is there? From what I have been able to see, it only makes us even more flamboyant, more likely to share private areas of our lives, even if only our bookshelves, our tattoos and the view from our window.

    A young niece is found of publishing pictures of her friends all pouting exaggeratedly at their rather good cheap cameras, while drunk. It’s only of interest to them, and of little tangential interest to me. Long may they remain free so to do.

  5. todays leaders are the most bland in history. they are also the most dangerous to individual freedom.

  6. Well, I’m not on Facebook either, but there’s photos of me tagged with my name apparently (I saw the pictures, not sure about the tag thing though). I’m 22 years old so I’m pretty much the only one in my environment without Facebook. So I say you can’t really escape it… I’m pretty sure they’re even the only pictures taken of me in a few years.

    Also, I think that if the “omigosh someone I once saw on television is drunk on pictures” trend continue (it will), it won’t change much. Sure, cameras are everywhere, but it’s also becoming a bit more trite. I don’t think tommorow’s leaders are going to be more boring than they already are ; )

  7. I’m not on facebook and probably never will be. I’m upper middle-aged and most of what I have to hide is pre-internet. BUT, It seems to me the “You brought it on your own stupid self, Just don’t do it” answer is more than a little naive and somewhat equivalent to abstinence only sex education.

  8. I have got to hear about your “mountain of legitimate evidence of wrongdoing” re: Obama. Do tell.

  9. I think this is a great blog. I’m 25 and I just deleted my faceboook last week. I found no need for it.

  10. Soul on Ice: “Etat” is famous for nitpicking every single photo TO DEATH and arguing with people who were actually involved in said photots. This person has no life, so talk to the wall, it listens more.

  11. Interesting thoughts.

    Something I do notice about “here” is that I can’t recall you ever posting a picture you have taken, which means this is a hobby to you and likely not a career. You also make a cleanly written, decently researched, statement of the historical significance of each photograph, and sometimes you give your opinion, which no one is forced to read, or agree with(which is a refreshing break from most blogs). You also let the chips fall where they may in the comment section.

    I don’t have any faith in Facebook, or twitter, or any of the other “social networks”, and that may be because I’m a product of my age(born in early ’60’s), but I suspect it is more an aversion to what I see the world(America) has become, and I’m just not that interested in what’s “important” now-a-days.

    Yes, I have strong political/social/religious/moral opinions, and have had for many years, so they aren’t likely to change.

    As for who to trust in the media about a story, I’m pretty much a critic of anything I see online, or in a newspaper/tabloid/magazine/movie/television, etc. Read a book, or better yet, write one.

  12. Also, on your last line, Yes I got the Scarlet Letter reference bringing Nathaniel Hawthorne into the 21st century.

    I put notice on my resume that I do not utilize social networking references.

    This in its’ self is a shame in that I am forced by the current society in which I live to put a disclaimer on my resume.

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