Don't drink and surf

Columns & Opinion, Internet

will.jpgWill Head writes…

We’ve all done it – sat down in front of a PC, glass of wine in hand, merrily surfing away. Maybe visited a forum here, a discussion there – perhaps the odd bit of instant messaging in between. Next thing you know, you’ve gone and divulged lurid details of your love life, your full medical history and intimate personal body measurements to someone you’ve never met before.

Well, okay, maybe not all of use – but according to a survey by PayPal we’re prone to divulging things we shouldn’t online when we’ve had a drink or two. Who said virtual life had no grounding in reality?

However, according to the numbers, only fifteen percent of those quizzed admitted they were drunk when revealing personal information. So, either some of them are telling porkies about their alcoholic tendencies, or people are happy to give this information up to people they’ve never met when they’re stone cold sober. I’m not sure which is worse.

Of course, the veil of anonymity that the web gives us means we can say things to people online that we’d never say to a complete stranger’s face. Like ‘bob’ yesterday asking for the photo of me to be removed because he found it “quite annoying”. He did at least say please, though.

It’s a bit like being in a car, safe in your protective bubble, hurling multiple – and invariably inspired – insults at other drivers for minor indiscretions only to turn away sheepishly at the lights and not be able to face them as you wait an age for them to change.

Perhaps we need some social norms reminder software to monitor our activity online. It could be programmed to pop up every half hour when it detects you’re chatting with other people, with handy reminders like “Remember, you’ve never met the person you’re talking to in real life” or “Hey, just because you both like cats, doesn’t mean you really know a thing about each other”. And, of course, especially as it gets later and later: “Of course it’s a guy. What WERE you thinking?”

Will Head
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