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Share This: social media vs. stranger danger

(Photo: “Sharing Is Caring – Fotosöndag” by Niklas Wikström)

It strikes me–particularly recently, though I’ve had the thought for some time–that we’ve somehow reared two very different breeds of internet user.

I don’t mean that in terms of generations, either. Obviously age demographics will show similarities among themselves and differences compared to other groupings. As a twenty-four-year-old P.Y.T. in the prime of shimmering youth (yes, yes), I don’t expect that my internet usage bears much in common with that of, say, my lovely great-aunt of… twenty-nine. Although, I suppose, we are both on Facebook in some capacity, but I honestly think she uses it more.

No, I mean in terms of sharing, particularly in the era of social media. There’s a stark divide between two stereotypes: the media-obsessed oversharers and the stranger-danger anonyms hiding behind HTTP proxies. Obviously these are a touch overblown (although I think I’ve seen at least a couple of each), but the separation does exist. At the same time that many have embraced the connectivity that New Internet offers, a great many others remain rooted in the old conventions and the relative security that they promise.

I admit to struggling a bit myself with finding a comfortable place in social media. Growing up online in the ’90s, the importance of anonymity was seriously stressed. Every chat contact a potential felon! My first offline meeting with an online friend was treated with all the seriousness of a hostage situation. Things are more laid-back these days, but the old conditioning runs deep. There’s still that hesitation… how much is too much? (I’m not sure that I’ll ever get around to using Foursquare or anything like it. Too creepy. Can you imagine trying to market that fifteen years ago?)

So I’m wondering where others might stand on this. Where do you draw the line? Did others coming to the internet in the early ’90s have similar experiences? Is Foursquare creepy or what? Talk to me. Even you, brave souls of the new media. Let’s reach across the aisle.

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