This Global Village is getting a bit stuffy

Katie_thumbnail_profile1.JPGIt turns out the internet is a tiny place. It’s not the vast, cavernous, roomy anonymous pleasure dome I’d once mistakenly believed it, it’s actually only about 300 people big. And everyone knows everyone else.

Or at least, that’s what you’d be forgiven for thinking if you spend as much time online as I do. This past week alone, I’ve bumped into more people who already know people I know. Often they know a couple of people who are in totally separate social circles, all of whom do something or other on the internet.

it shouldn’t really come as a surprise to me – after all, that’s what this virtual village of ours is all about, right? But suddenly it’s all starting to feel a little bit claustrophobic in here and I’ll tell you for why.

Sociologists love talking about how technology has brought us all closer together (and I like to join them), recreating that small village feel we no longer have, allowing us to share mundane trivialities with friends online (or on the phone). Things that we once used to bore our neighbours with over the garden fence are now shared on Facebook status updates, via text or on Twitter. And while curmudgeonly types may complain that it’s all just inane chatter, that inane chatter is what helps us all to feel a little less isolated in this busy, over-populated world of ours.

But the problem is, whenever I want to share some minor grievance on Twitter, I suddenly can’t any more. Why? Because in nearly every case it turns out the person who’s just incurred my wrath also has a Twitter account and follows loads of the same people. Someone moaned about Shiny the other day and then messaged me an awkward Direct Message when he realised we followed each other. And last week I met a couple who, on checking their blogs (yes, I web stalked them), knew at least 3 unconnected (I thought) groups of people that I knew (plus, I’d taught their daughter to crochet).

It’s all very nice, of course (if a little weird), to find that we’re all just one big happy family, but that’s no good when you want to complain that some idiot’s just cancelled a meeting on you at the last moment and it turns out that everyone knows who you’re talking about. I’ve seen tweets moaning about bosses, potential bosses, clients and companies and I’ve known exactly who is being talked about. (Of course, sometimes this is done on purpose, but “passive aggressive uses for the internet” is a column for another day).

I don’t know why I’m complaining – after all, that’s exactly what village life is like. I can’t leave the house without someone twitching the virtual curtains, and there’s no piece of gossip I can share about myself that my friends haven’t already heard about through either the grapevine or my own digital bleetings. In fact, Twitter has now seen the coming together and the very public break up of two virtual inhabitants, all played out in front of the whole community. It was like something straight out of Cranford.

So, if you find yourself gossiping about people on Twitter or Facebook who you hardly even see in real life, then you know you’re part of that same village, where sharing the little details of your life goes hand in hand with the loss of your privacy.

In this village we’re all the local Nosey Parker.

(Now I’m off to tell the people on Twitter that I just wrote a column)



  • Sometimes too much info from people you really wouldn’t be talking to face to face or even on the phone is a bit much. What is so important that all these details be given out and who really wants to read all that?

  • The Global Village is indeed getting smaller, this makes the world of the internet even smaller, where technology plus communication much more effective.

    Places like Facebook, Yahoo and Myspace allow us to be much closer. On a social aspect, we should be closer to our family and friends.

    It’s nice to feel we are closer together. For many, online environment is a form of escapism from reality.

    There is always pros and cons to each debate.

  • Haha, I totally agree with this – increasingly biting my tongue! It’s also a problem when you meet people through work that you fancy a bit, you can’t tweet that either anymore – unless you want to let them know that way!

  • It’s scary thinking about how small the world is let alone the internet! We need a new secret location/portal where we can all rant, bitch and say what ever we darn well please without having to worry about sugar coating or offending! And not everyone will be invited – private members only! Of course I could use my mobile, but where’s the social networking in that?

  • Sometimes I find myself overwhelmed by a mild panic that so VERY much of my life events, secrets, personal information, stupid opinions, etc, has been scattered carelessly across the net as though no one’s really reading it. As though I’m the only real person here, and the rest of you are just imaginary people created especially for me by a faceless social media multinational so that I a) feel important and then b) buy more stuff online.

    You’re right, it’s a weird sort of virtual claustrophobia, and I’ve found it helps if you just keep pretending that everyone else actually IS imaginary. You, for instance, would be Imaginary Shiny Katie. A shiny figment of my imagination.

    ‘I can’t leave the house without someone twitching the virtual curtains’ – best sentence I’ve read this week.

  • Great article, and very true. My real life friends don’t use twitter…possibly because I am friends with too many technophobes but i sort of censor myself anyway because it updates Facebook and none of my friends there know i blog. So I have twitterfeed update my twitter status but my personal message at the beginning contains an @ sign so it doesn’t update to facebook as well. Complicated, me?

  • I think that sums up how I love about twitter, I originally came to twitter because I started to mistrust Facebook, but twitter is so much more than Facebook. FB friends tended to be people I already knew or even sat in the same office as.

    However even though I started twittering with a group of friends I already knew, I soon expanded my following group to people I’ve never met (and probably never will), but they are a rich group of friends, reading their comments, as they happen is fascinating, they take me through all the emotions from laughing out loud to sympathetic anger at the injustices they are suffering – petty or otherwise, it’s like an emotional roller coaster.

    Groups overlap each other in interesting ways, because no one follows the same group of people, this adds to the richness of the community too. It’s like rain on the surface of a pond, circles grow outwards, overlapping each other as they go.

    The more I use twitter the more I feel part of something bigger. I still remember my drunken, but heartfelt – “I love all my twitter friends” tweet. :0)

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