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Nick Bilton
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I Love Lamp, So Do My Friends, And Who Cares?

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This weekend, Nick Bilton of the NYT wrote an interesting piece called “Disruptions: Seeking Privacy in a Networked Age” about his experience at a recent dinner party he threw for friends. The crux of the article is that his friends used social tools to let everyone know where they were and what they were doing. This led to a few uncomfortable moments for Bilton, such as this:

I certainly didn’t tweet or share information like that on Facebook, but many of the 15 people in attendance did.

I know that because a few days later, on a work-related call, someone else — who has never stepped foot in my house — told me how much he “just loved” the lamps hanging above my kitchen table.

I’ve had this happen a few times, meaning someone on a work-related call, usually someone in PR, will point out something that I said on Twitter and use it to start a conversation with me. Sometimes it’s really awkward, but then I remember that I tweeted it in the first place, so it’s fair game. What Bilton is talking about is a shift in decorum amongst friends, ie: “When is it ok to share, and when should things be “off the grid”?

His piece definitely got me thinking, and I don’t think Bilton was condemning his friends or crying about the tools that we have at our disposal on the Internet. However, this seems to be something that you should really have a conversation with your friends about, not the world. Having said that, I’m writing this today to push the ball forward, since it’s already a public topic.

Know when to say when

Bilton says:

Over the course of the three-hour dinner, my friends posted seven photos on Path, sent six Twitter messages (five with photos), six photos on Instagram and two people checked in on Foursquare.

My immediate thought was “So what?” If my friends are happy when they’re visiting my home and their way of expressing it is to share it with their friends, whom I may or may not know, then so be it. Sure, I understand that Bilton would like some privacy, but at the same time, what does privacy mean? Does it mean that people don’t give out your location? If so, then I totally agree. My house is a foursquare venue, but doesn’t give an exact address.

As far as the tweeting and Instagraming, that’s how people share joy. Key phrase is share. Sometimes friends can’t be everywhere, and even if you’re at an “exclusive” dinner for 15 friends, that doesn’t mean that their life completely stops. Their mom is in Jersey, their friends are in Austin and they enjoy sharing the love they have for what they’re doing or who they’re with.

I’m ok with this, honestly.

Before there was the Interwebs…

Look, before the Internet “happened”, specifically mobile apps and communication, people still told tales of parties and dinners that they attended. The only difference is that this was on a delay. People still took pictures and chronicled the happenings in their pretty little heads. It just wasn’t posted for posterity, and I can understand how that makes some people uncomfortable.

However, that’s a conversation to have with your friends. A real conversation to have. If you are uncomfortable with someone sharing photos of your lamp in your kitchen, then say so. These people are your friends, after all, and if they don’t understand, then they’re not your friends.

Bilton snarkily suggests that he might need to take further measures next time:

I may have to resort to posting an old piece of technology called a sheet of paper with the message (in less than 140 characters): “Please don’t check in on Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter, Path, Myspace or any other service. #thanks!”

If you have to treat your home like a newsroom, then that sucks. If your friends need that much of a smack in the face not to divulge your deepest darkest lamp secrets, then you need to either have the discussion or find new friends. Moral of the story, people like to share. They always have. Is it easier now with apps and stuff? Sure, but it’s not a massive shift in behavior or something to get uptight about.

Or ya know, write about it in the New York Times.

Love you Nick, can’t wait to see those lovely lamps. I’ll bring the tigers.