I grew up in a very small town (population: 1,500 busybodies) and so learned at an early age that privacy is an illusion.
The only difference between a small town and the Internet, in my opinion, is the population. There are more looky-loos online and more opportunities for public embarrassment for the most venial of social sins.
A friend recently related to me how she spent the night listening to her neighbours’ arguing in the apartment beside her. Instead of just plain eavesdropping, however, she decided to post fragments of their pretty racy argument on her Twitter page. She was sick of listening to the couple argue—they kept her awake and so she saw them as being rude and therefore deserving of the outing.
I don’t think she did anything wrong. But I couldn’t help but put myself in the shoes of the fighting couple and wonder how they’d feel to have their private life written out in 142 characters or less.
Are we going to have to start fighting silently to keep our arguments offline?
Recently a waitress in the U.S. decided to shame a nasty customer using her Facebook account (via Globeandmail.com). Last Friday, Victoria Liss served a man and a woman a meal at Seattle’s Bimbos Cantina. In an interview with a Seattle weekly, she indicated she thought the pair would be difficult from the outset—they looked like jerky yuppies apparently. But she probably didn’t expect the exchange to get as nasty as it did.
When Liss went back for the bill, she noticed that the male customer had written a message at the bottom of the bill.
The message: You could stand to loose [sic] a few pounds.
Jerk! Making matters worse, the creep didn’t even bother to leave a tip. Just an insult and he was gone.
Peeved, Liss went home and posted a picture of the bill on her Facebook page. But Liss went one step further: she also revealed the man’s name.
In naming the jerk, Liss kicked off a mini-Internet phenomenon with even advice columnist Dan Savage chiming in.
According to the Globe and Mail, some Seattle bars have carried the outing offline, posting pictures of the man “on the doors of their establishments, like a modern day wanted sign.”
Whether or not what Liss did represents an act of Internet revenge, or is in fact a public service of sorts—i.e., don’t be a jerk—is up for debate. (I’d say using credit card information publicly represents a breach in waitress etiquette too.)
What’s clear, however, is that bad manners spread like a virus online, occasionally infecting its victims too.