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‘We’re so vain, we probably think this world is about us’

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POSTED October 26, 2012 12:20 a.m.

Carly Simon’s ode to former beau Warren Beatty - “You’re So Vain” - could be easily adapted to serve as the anthem of today’s movement to capture every waking moment we have on digital images.

We’ve gone from a society where photos and such of family and friends were special to the point we feel obligated to create a minute by minute documentary of our lives for the rest of the world to endure.

So is anyone surprised that the next high tech device that Silicon Valley types are racing to perfect can be worn on your shirt pocket clicking away as you walk around? The folks working on such devices say they’re driven by the fact one often never knows when there’s a personal moment you want photographed until after it has passed.

This is what we have to thank reality TV shows like “Big Brother” as well as Internet sites such as YouTube and Facebook for bringing about.

Call me old school - strike that call me archaic - but what ever happened about life not being about you and making sure everything you do no matter how mundane can clog up cyberspace for eternity?

People would often chide me after I wander off on one of my week-long sojourns into the remote backcountry of Death Valley and not bring back a ton of photos let alone even one snapshot. I’d rather spend my time living the moment and soaking up the images that count - the ones imprinted in your memory and heart - instead of acting like Alan Funt gone wild.

Of course, it now seems like new technology will take care of that for us. But it begs the question: Does the world really need 314 million Americans with the ability to create their own 24/7 reality TV show?

As it is now we have cluttered up our days with tons of e-mail driven many times by the sender’s need to share tidbits. We slouch over smartphones walking down the street proud that we’re communicating with the world while ignoring the world around us. We place such an emphasis on instant communication we cheapen communication by believing effective communication is no holds barred communication.

John Wayne types - folks who chose their words carefully and make sure what they communicate has weight - have been relegated to the cultural junk pile along with quaint traits such as common courtesy and civil political discourse. Instead we have elevated Bewitched’s Gladys Kravitz genre to sacred status. Nosiness and blabber mouthing are now considered the societal norm. Restraint and decorum are endangered qualities.

They say the Internet has started a revolution that is bringing the world closer together. Sorry, but if the advancement of civilization means 7 billion people will be able to download in real time their lives’ most mundane moments we need to question how we blindly embrace technology.

Freedom, as another songwriter by the name of Janis Joplin once sang, is another word for nothing left to lose.

We no longer have secrets. Instead we provide way too much information on the assumption everything we do is important to the rest of the world.

Making it all the more ironic is that many people caught up in their bid to make their lives transparent and available to anyone at a touch of a screen from Manteca to Bombay cry foul when the mundane information of their lives they post in cyberspace come back to trip them up.

It’s pretty rich to claim your privacy has been unconstitutionally violated when law enforcement or some other agency uses information you post freely to charge you with some infraction or reject your employment or admission to college.

And to think we were once worried that Big Brother would trip us all up by recording every movement of our lives and every word we uttered.

George Orwell had it wrong. It’s not government surveillance 24/7 that we should fear. Instead it is our own vanity.



This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209-249-3519.

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