The Truman Show Is No Longer Science Fiction

I’m constantly trying to stay on top of the latest media trends: what is now possible, how to share it and the best way to tell a story Online. Central to this discussion are our views on privacy – at present we all seem to acknowledge if we choose to be Online, create a profile, post about ourselves and what we are currently doing, then we can’t complain if we are harassed, stalked or if that information is used by brands to analyse trends and consumer behaviour. But what if it wasn’t your choice to be Online? What will Charlie say when he’s old enough to understand over 374 million people watched him bite his brother’s finger?

I’m going to paint a fantastical picture. Imagine a child grows up and reaches the age of 18, unaware that they are in fact ‘famous’ to the rest of the world. These days, parents start Facebook accounts for their unborn children and share their ultrasound photo with their friends, months before the foetus is technically classified as a person. The moment the child is born, naked baby photos populate their Mothers’ Facebook wall and friends begin to comment and share their ‘likes’. As the year goes by, proud parents can’t help but share every update; he smiled, she took her first step, he winked…and soon enough there’s a video uploaded to YouTube, capturing all of this on camera. But is that fair? Surely a 1 month old child cannot give their consent, and is it prudent to say that their parent’s hold that right to decide what remains private and what is publicised?

So I’d like to take it one step further, to really get you thinking… Imagine if you created a Facebook profile for your child and didn’t tell them, until they were 18. You upload content and pictures daily, in essence broadcasting and cataloguing their life to the world. You start a YouTube and Twitter page under the child’s name and populate it with the witty things they say and film their life in weekly or monthly segments. Somewhere along the line people Online start to take notice. You efforts gain traction. Even more perverse; you could hide cameras in the bathroom, catch them ‘unaware’, film tantrums, first kisses and those moments you do something ridiculous when no-one is looking, to give a viral, conversational element to the story.

Eventually word gets out. Your child gains a following, people can recognise them on the street. One day they even feature on TV as part of ‘Rude Tube’. Yet they would never know, they don’t understand. Besides, being famous Online does not change your world – but the potential is there for it to go bigger and culminate in the devastating moment, as it happened in The Truman Show, when it dawns upon the child and they realise nothing they ever did belonged just to them.

In some ways it has happened to Charlie, David at the Dentist and a number of other kids who don’t appreciate the reach of the internet and how many people are laughing at them. On the other hand, we love looking at old photos, remembering the yesteryear and wish we’d spent more time recording and savouring the moments. So perhaps you could give it to your child as a gift. A Hall of Fame, This is Your Life type collection. The question is, unless it was you in that position, how do you know what it would feel like? And more to the point – shouldn’t we consider the ethics behind this question?

If you haven’t seen Charlie (and I find that hard to believe) check out the YouTube clip here:

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