Eagerness to share our lives with the others — where are the online boundaries?

On: September 17, 2011
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About Urszula Jurgiel
After doing my BA in Sociology and MA in International Management I decided to study something more related to my interests. Working for over a year as a journalist for a fashion magazine gave me an opportunity to see how media actually look like from the other side and assured me that this is something that I want to do in the future. I believe that MA in New Media at UvA is a great chance on my way to make it happen. A former dancer, still in love with all kinds of dance, music and theater as well as with good magazines, biographies and photographies. Sport enthusiast, most recently interested in surfing, longboarding and of course cycling in Amsterdam.


More and more often I find on Facebook things which I would rather never want to find. Sonograms of unborn children of people who I know from high school and didn’t talk to them since then, tomographies of their heads after having an accident, pictures of their half-naked partners during summer holidays. One question which comes to my mind is aren’t they afraid who can see or use this pictures, the other is why do they even have a need to show it? The truth is that with the time passing by I am starting to see that nothing is able to shock me anymore and I just slowly stopped to even notice this kind of posts. But is that a good sign?

n. pl. bound·a·ries
1. Something that indicates a border or limit.
2. The border or limit so indicated.

The reason why I started thinking about all that was a work of an Turkish artist and movie director Kutlug Ataman which I had chance to see this summer in Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. Kuba, which is the tittle of his project, presents on 40 TV screens with chairs situated in front of all of them 40 stories of people living in the slums of Istanbul. The main idea of Ataman’s project was to by placing an old chair or armchair in front of every tv screen create intimacy between the storyteller and a viewer and attract the viewer to actually listen to the story. Ataman wanted to examine the way in which people construct their identities through storytelling.

That is anyway the explanation which we could find on Guggenheim Museum website in order to understand Ataman’s idea. After 7 years of showing this work for the first time and after seeing it in this particular moment when I’m constantly attacked from all possible sides with Facebook, Twitter and all other new new media I understood this work differently. My understanding is based on the first impression I got after entering the room. 40 people telling their terrifying stories on 40 screens. The room was dark and the lights from the screens plus loud voices were quite annoying and disturbing. I couldn’t even focus on one of the screens and decide on which second-hand chair I would like to seat.

My first thought was that if Facebook could talk this is how it would sound like. People desperately trying to get some attention even if it means sharing their most private memories, screaming one threw another, trying to shock, surprise us with their stories, sharing moments of their lives, telling horrible stories, one worse than the other just to catch somebody’s eye for one short moment because in a second it will go in another direction anyway, no matter how hard we would try to keep it focused on us.

And on the other side we, the recipients who are not even able to notice them all anymore, listen to them anymore even though it might seem brutal and totally insensitive. Is it possible that the times when we all became thick-skinned in order not to get insane have come? Why people want to be seen so much and want to share the most private moments of their lives with the not-even-a-bit-close Facebook friends?

My Facebook friend who I mentioned before is going to have a daughter in few days. How do I know that? From Facebook of course because she wants to keep everybody updated. This little girl is not even born yet but everybody could see her being just few weeks old. As well as parents should give us freedom about choosing our own religion they should give us a choice  and possibility to make our own decision either we want to be or we don’t want to be (on Facebook). In some years from now her future boss will be not only able to find her (hopefully not) drunken pictures from parties but also her whole life including the time she was not even born yet.

Where is the borderline? Does there exist anything that can’t be shown online anymore? A solution could be to delete from Facebook these people whose lives I do not want to observe. But is that really a solution?

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