Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Living in a house with paper walls. Thoughts on privacy in a connected world.

Tom (name changed for reasons of confidentiality) is a real life friend. His kids play with our kids. Tom and his wife have come to parties in our house and we have had dinner with them. There is nothing unusual in this except that Tom is also a gamer. Those under the age of 35 may find it hard to believe that this is unusual among men of my generation. For most of my generation gaming ended decades ago ago when the pursuit of the opposite sex became a more pressing concern than pushing coins into a Space Invaders machine. Sure they may have enjoy a few games of Wii Sports with their own kids but that is the extent of their knowledge of the modern state of the game.

Anyhow Tom is a gamer and I want to talk about our gaming relationship. A few years back this amounted to no more than brief conversations about the latest Call of Duty while our wives discussed other issues. The we realised we were both on Steam and we added each other to friends lists. While conflicting real life timetables meant we never actually got around to playing multiplayer together it does mean that every time I turn on my computer a little icon will tell me whether Tom is also logged on and if he is playing a game. I assume he also gets these notifications about me.

For some reason this bugs me. I have other friends on Steam and I couldn't care less about their gaming habits but it is different with someone I know in real life. I don't want to know what Tom gets up to on a Friday night and I doubt he want to know what I am doing at 8:00am on a Sunday morning. Sometimes I deliberately sign out of Steam just to get a bit of privacy. I think Tom does the same.

I have heard it said that the Japanese have a highly developed code of manners because for so long they lived in houses with paper walls. It is as if humans who are denied real privacy develop unspoken codes of conduct to compensate.

This post was sparked by a post from Tobold in which he talks about going back into Facebook using his real name after having been banned for using a pseudonym. I have so far resisted the urge to create a real name Facebook account primarily for reasons of privacy. I do have a LinkedIn account but that is very squarely grounded in the professional realm and does not impinge on my personal privacy.

Being on Facebook under your real name is surely the ultimate incarnation of "living in a a house with paper walls". Has a new etiquette developed to reflect this? Do you deliberately screen out information about your friends and contacts?

3 comments:

Gankalicious said...

Wait a minute.... I was supposed to STOP putting coins into the Space Invaders machine? Well, that does explain my rather girl-free teenage years then ;)

To answer the question at hand I don't have any real life friends on raptr or steam and when Facebook first started I used my dog as my identity just for laughs. When people refused to speak to me as my dog, I deleted my account as I'm Old School in that I actually phone or visit people I care about IRL!

Tesh said...

I have a bunch of "friends" on Facebook that are really just old high school acquaintances. Some have radically different views on... pretty much everything. Yet, I maintain contact, mostly as a networking tool for when I need to find work again. So far, the etiquette seems to be "I don't post much of anything because most people disagree with me". It's really not a platform for intelligent discourse, it's just sort of there.

So yeah, there's a bit of paper wall social avoidance going on there. It's not worth discussing much of anything except for the most inane and bland of topics, and I have other things I'd rather spend time on.

mbp said...

Hi Tesh that is exactly the sort of thing I was expecting to happen.