Yet another obsession: I’m so tired of answering the question “why do teenagers put so much personal stuff online?” (See previous post. Could it have something to do with the fact that there are literally billions of dollars working away at trying to persuade them to do so? Or could it be because it is totally fun? Because it gives them immediate feedback and validation? Because it is a necessary part of participation in youth culture? Because if you don’t, you are totally out of touch?)

Always on the pulse of the hottest trends, the New York Times reports on recruiters using social networking services to research people. Huh, wasn’t I quoted in a BusinessWeek article about this months ago?

But here’s the question I get over and over:

A lot of it makes me think, what kind of judgment does this person have?” said the company’s president, Brad Karsh. “Why are you allowing this to be viewed publicly, effectively, or semipublicly?”

I’m really interested in personal motivation for self-disclosure and submitting to surveillance (two different things). With the former, Terri Senft’s upcoming book on camgirls, and her concept of “microcelebrity”, will hopefully let me suss out some of these ideas. With the latter, I hope that a project might come out of this workshop. The idea of “consent” is a really complicated one: people really want to create themselves online, meaning they want to have elaborate MySpace profiles and construct their identities in very specific, personalized ways. And obviously the average American 19 year old wants to portray themselves as transgressive, sexy, and cool, not professional and well-read.

So what’s “the solution”? I’ve heard three:
1. Young people should stop putting content online.
2. Recruiters and employers shouldn’t use Google or Facebook to research potential candidates (don’t hear this one very often, although you’d think in a country where it’s illegal to ask people to include a snapshot with their resume, there might be potential room for legislation here).
3. We just have to wait until there’s no longer a divide between your “work” persona and your “life” persona. I know this sounds stupid, but I heard it from the CEO of Facebook.

And here’s what’s actually happening: People are obfuscating personal data by using pseudonyms that can only be identified within situated, contextual networks, or by using services which allow them to restrict who can view their personal information. This is really the only one of these solutions which makes any sense.