We Live in Public

For the past few years I’ve gone to a documentary film festival called the True False Film Festival in Columbia, Missouri.
In 2009, I was introduced to a powerful documentary about the future of this digital landscape we live in called We Live in Public.  In the film, the protagonist, Josh Harris, a dot-com visionary who has been penned the “Nostradamus of the internet,” creates an experiment where dozens of volunteers in New York City live underground for an entire year with food, alcohol, living quarters and even a firing range all provided to them.  The catch is that everything they do is videotaped – from their showers to their sex lives.  These brave souls agreed to be filmed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for an entire year.
Harris predicted sites like Facebook and Hulu before they ever existed.  In the film, Harris says “Years ago the lions and tigers were kings of the jungle and one day they wound up in zoos, I suspect we’re on the same track.”
I bring up this film because Harris, as crazy as he was (and oh, he was CRAZY) did have a point about the future of technology.  We currently DO live in public.  And, it’s not going away.
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Sure, you can choose to not participate in sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linked In, Google Plus and the countless others I can name (wait, you’re reading my blog, right?) but when was the last time you googled something?  Ever notice how you were searching for some winter boots and then all of sudden you’re checking your Gmail account and an advertisement for winter boots comes up?  Very few people living in modern society can manage to live off the digital grid and frankly, I don’t think it’s such a horrible thing.
Social media has been blamed for many a scandal: political, business, personal etc. Yet, I have to wonder, being the optimist I am, what if we embraced living in public?  What if we aligned ourselves with those things that are honest and preserve the integrity to who we are as people?  What if we allowed our Facebook feeds and Twitter feeds to provide a glimpse into who that is and utilized these new mediums to form communities instead of feeding our ever growing narcissism?
A social media professor once said, “If there is something that you say or do that you’d be ashamed of if it showed up online, then don’t do it and don’t say it.”  Shouldn’t we be doing that anyway?  Shouldn’t we strive to live good, ethical and honorable lives?  Is transparency so radical an idea?  We all are the first to fight for transparency when it comes to government funds and corporate board rooms, but what about ourselves?  What are we so afraid of?
We will make mistakes, quite possibly publicly, but maybe instead of judging others so harshly for their mistakes we will learn to be more empathetic and understanding of one another.
More about Harris here:
Trailer for the film:

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  1. Kate - December 12, 2012

    Errol Morris interviewed this guy on the show First Person. He had a setup where the subject was looking directly into the camera but seeing Morris' face. Good stuff.http://youtu.be/MT3JukAZlW8