Friday, May 9, 2008

Considering privacy when there's nothing to hide

I'm looking for your opinions on this ... I think I know how I feel about it, but I'm aware that other people feel differently ... so help me understand here.

I've posted here before about people marking some of my Flickr photos as favorites in a post entitled "Gay guys totally dig me on Flickr." There's a contingent of gentlemen who think my chubby, hairy belly is dead sexy.

When I check recent activity on my Flickr gallery, I regularly find that people have marked some of the photos as favorites. When I click on the person's name to see their favorites, there's usually a theme. When it comes to the context in which I find my pictures, it's usually a collection of overfed and underdressed hirsute dudes.

Me -- I'm not that spooked by it. I find it flattering that people would find me so attractive they want to see my picture more than once. I don't feel threatened by it. My pictures don't portray me in a degrading fashion in any way that would impugn my character or smear my reputation. They're just photos of me that happen to appeal to a certain narrow demographic. I even stuck out my belly in one of the photos on our Cuba trip as a nod to my "fans".

Lately I've spotted a few people favouriting my girlfriend's pictures. And, likewise, there's usually a theme. Usually it's breasts, specifically cleavage, although one guy clearly had a thing for cute girls' armpits.

Now, this is where I acknowledge my opinion may diverge from others.

I'm not threatened by men on the internets looking at our innocent snapshots and finding my girlfriend to be hot. I'm kind of flattered that they think she's as sexy as I do.

Some people find it really really creepy that people would be looking at them like that. I don't think Amanda's comfortable with strangers finding her pictures sexy. I don't think she finds it threatening but she's clearly not into having her armpits fetishized for people who troll the web for shots that accidentally show the body parts they love most.

Now, I'm not taking pictures of my partner in sexy underthings and in suggestive poses to post on the internet to vampiristically solicit the drooling glances of other strangers. Not that that would be entirely unlike me, or some version of me from the past, but that's not appropriate, welcome or ... y'know, it's not a good idea. I get that.

Aren't I scared that these people are stalking me or her? No, I'm not. I don't believe these people are infatuated with anything more than the particular image they're looking at. I'm not afraid that someone out there has spotted my lady's 'pits or decolletage and is crawling the web looking for a way to get to her. I don't feel that kind of fear.

What's going on here is that we're posting perfectly reasonable snapshots that the average person would find innocent and plain. But people are devouring other peoples' photographed life and cherry picking the parts that turn them on, then saving them out to a collection that focuses on their particular predilections.

So what's a person to do? Cave into the peepers and go private with our otherwise unproblematic photos? Consider this: every parent who's posting adorable photos of their kids playing in the backyard pool are also sharing those family memories with oddballs who scour the web for pictures of children playing in backyard pools! Your little boy or girl could end up bookmarked for future insalubrious viewing by a guy whose viewing habits would make you throw up.

Where's it stop? If someone has a thing for women in red shirts, you may find your photos ending up in a collection along with other women in red shirts. Blue-eyed redheads? You're bookmarked! Flat-chested? Ample-bosomed? Somewhere in between or maybe a little heavier on one side than the other? Someone's going to fancy you! Someone's going to fancy you for a part of you you may not be proud of. And even if you're proud of it, are you comfortable with someone other than your honey bunny ogling you at the keyboard?

So, that's what I want you to meditate on and comment about.

How do you handle the knowledge that the material you post innocently to the web is likely being consumed by people who are using it for pervy purposes you hadn't intended?

3 comments:

  1. Thought-provoking. I guess if I'm honest, my opinions are pretty much in line with yours. I'm not out looking for attention, but if someone sees something they like, then I figure "hey, whatever floats your boat". I don't think I'm interesting enough to be stalked or have my identity thieved (head in the sand??) so I'm not paranoid about it. That being said, most (all?) of my pictures are marked private...I don't see the need to put everything "out there" (as I'm not a blogger).

    But then you get to the part about pervs looking at my little one, and I'm not sure what to say about that.

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  2. Paul - Driver Education Counsellor (and Moderator too)May 10, 2008 at 1:02 AM

    Yeah, I'm trying to find a controversy in this but can't come up with one. How is getting ogled in the manner you describe any different than going about your business from day to day, and people "watching" other people for what they like to see. More so in the summer, I guess.

    I suppose the only thing distinguishing this, is that it's all neatly quantified for you via the Interwebs. Otherwise, you'd never have known just *how much* fetishized your belly could be.

    To a more paranoid person, it could make for feeling more insecure when in public. Now, come to think of it, anonymous clickers on your photos don't bother you, but doesn't it make you wonder who's staring and why?

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  3. Personally, I would LOVE the attention, even if it came from shall we say, unique individuals. Maybe that's just me, I like recognition wherever I can get it.

    I guess a downside to putting so much of your life online is that it's not always viewed in a positive light. There are plenty of douchebags out there who love to post derogatory, insulting comments about people's uploaded pics, videos, blog posts etc. If you're cool enough not to be bothered by them and just let assholes be assholes, then there's no need to inhibit what you share on the interwebs.

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