The Internet and audience

So about this whole Frienditto thing.  (Ed. Note 2022: Frienditto was a service that could create a public archive of any LiveJournal post a user could see, thus effectively making public material the original poster had intended to be friends-only.  There was consternation.)

While I agree with the sentiment that it’s a bad idea to assume that anything on the Internet is private, there’s a separate issue which the integrity of friends-locking touches on: it’s really hard to judge one’s audience reliably on the net.

I think a substantial portion of online flamewars start from the equivalent of making a snarky joke about someone at a party, only to discover that they’re standing right behind you. It’s not necessarily that you wouldn’t say it to their face, but you might say it differently if you realized they were there. On the net, everyone is there. That takes some getting used to.

People phrase things based on the audience they’re addressing; it’s nigh-impossible to write without assuming something about your readers — their interests, their positions, their hot buttons. It can be frustrating when your words drift beyond the audience you intended, because they stop communicating effectively. And frankly, it’s a pain in the ass to write for the whole world all the time.

That’s why I find the idea of Frienditto a little troubling. I don’t talk about anything I consider private behind a lock, but I do sometimes rely on the known audience of my friends list to let down my hair a bit in matters of diction. I also avoid sensitive matters in email, but I’d still be ill-pleased to see my emails published Paris Hilton-style.

Originally published on LiveJournal