Yesterday while walking Toni, I ran into a friend’s wife, two kids and dog. They walked out from a nearby nature preserve as I was walking in – and I said a polite “Hello” as I would say it to a stranger, but didn’t stop to chat with them, because that would have been creepy.
Why? Because to them, I am a stranger. They don’t know me. But I know them! Through the family albums that my friend posts on Facebook, and through chatting with yet other friends who also know him. You know, just the casual, conversational bits and pieces.
And I didn’t know they had a dog. Because, and that’s another thing – that “friend” is an online-only friend. We’re connected through activities that we both like and share online, and so, eventually also connected on Facebook. But we haven’t met in real life yet. So “friend” here really means a “Facebook Friend” and you know how vague that can be.
As I kept thinking about it, I was fascinated and somewhat disturbed at the same time. Because I could’ve started a conversation with this friend’s wife – even addressing her by her name. Then asking her about how the move went, and how she must be driving the <other car> because I didn’t see <the SUV> at the trailhead.
We put so much of our lives and personal information out there in the open for everyone to see, it’s scary. We do it willingly of course because we don’t want to be digital hermits. I probably can’t compare this directly to myself because I put more of myself out there anyway as a photographer. But it made me wonder how much I am sharing with the world unintentionally, and whether it would be possible for someone who knows me to recognize my wife in public, and then start a somewhat creepy conversation, if they only wanted to.