Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Journalist regrets signing up for Ashley Madison just to report on it; if digital lives for ever, it's hard to "just watch" safely

A journalist reports in the Washington Post, Style section, Tuesday, August 25, 2015, that she created a place-holding account on Ashley Madison (see Aug. 19) just to write a story about it later.  That’s the subject of the Post article “Why I fear being on the adultery database”, link here. By Jennifer Jeane Patterson.
She never “did anything” and ignored all the tacky emails and messages she got.  And she says her husband understands fully that this was a professional journalism experiment. But she writes now that she is apprehensive about explaining this to her tween kids.

But much of her article seems more like a plea for “the right to be forgotten”.  She notes that 20 years ago, an article could go out of print and be forgotten.  (Well, the Web was just getting noticed then, as AOL and Prodigy clung to proprietary content on my PS-1).

It’s true that kids and younger people make a lot of small social media experiences.  I’m too old (at 72) to play social combat that way, and stay mainly on news, as well as my own music and other content.  In fact, there are those who say they don't need to get "news" from me and wonder why I don't rejoin the world at  more personal level and give value personally to people who need it. 
The experience in the book world parallels what she says.  Twenty years ago, a trade-published book might go onto paperback but tended to disappear if it didn’t sell.   This was the case of a lot of the life narratives of men and women who fought the military gay ban in the 1990s.  Try looking up Joe Steffan’s “Honor Bound” on Amazon now! (Book reviews, Oct. 10, 2007.)  But having self-published mine and then used POD, I simply kept them alive myself, competing with myself, by letting them remain “free” on the web for those who didn’t want to pay.  Some people don’t like to see this. 

Curiously, I kept a distance from most things, pretending to be engaged to report on them, more like an alien observer than a true journalist.  And, by the way, in line with what Patterson writes in her article, I do know a handful of young adults who deliberately keep a very low profile in social media, at least for the time being, for a variety of reasons.  

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