The first time I signed up for a Facebook account, I was in the seventh grade. I sat with my two best friends, deciding which generic picture of flowers would work as a good profile picture. Back then, the internet still seemed like a place filled with scary, anonymous faces and people. I believed these people were out to steal my identity, find out where I lived and figure out everything about me. My mother warned me not to post pictures of myself on my Facebook, for safety reasons. I was too young. I did it anyway, slightly nervous but figuring I had nothing to lose.
Now, it’s pretty common to see Instagram accounts belonging to children. There are even accounts dedicated to babies. Before they even know what the internet is, their faces are all over it. Name, age, location, personality (as much as a newborn can have) spans across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and more. We have meme stars under 10 (looking at you Gavin) and personality figures who haven’t yet graduated elementary school.
As I recall in middle school, we used to sit through assemblies about the danger of putting your information on the internet, namely if a stranger asked for it. Always post something after you’ve been there, not before. Never meet up with someone you’ve never met in person, et cetera. With almost everything being on the internet though, it’s kind of a hindrance if you don’t identify yourself as much as you can. We go on Tinder dates with strangers we’ve never met, only because an app allows us to speak to each other. We have profiles on websites like LinkedIn, where all of our contact information is available to any potential employer but also any person with wifi. We mark all of the places we’ve been on Instagram, we check in when we have arrived at our destinations on Facebook. We have given potential stalkers all the information they need to find us, easily. But it doesn’t worry us anymore.
There now seems to be the trend of wanting to be found. People want their videos and their pictures to go viral, and they enjoy sharing their lives online. Youtube stars especially have made careers out of sharing everything about their lives on the internet to strangers all over the world. Vloggers like the SacconeJolys have shared videos featuring their children who are only three and four years old, and recently even vlogged the first moments of their newest daughter’s life. For many successful vloggers and YouTubers, their most liked and viewed videos are the ones that reveal the most personal parts of their lives, where viewers can feel like they actually know them, even if they live in a different country.
So why did this trend change? Well the advancement of technology has definitely led to more dependence on the internet, but it doesn’t necessarily explain why we are so fast to give away all of our personal information. Maybe it’s because humans are nosy and we just want to know each other as much as we’re able. Perhaps the threat of being stalked is outweighed by the positive attention that also comes along with putting yourself online. Likes and comments definitely help us to feel important and appreciated. Or maybe it’s just because everyone’s doing it. However it started, it’s clear that it’s not changing anytime soon. The internet in many ways has become an open and inviting place, compared to the anonymous and mysterious one of my middle school years. Although trends are always changing, it’s hard to say where the internet oversharing trend will take us into the future. But if you do want to make a name for yourself online, expect to share everything with your audience, and you might find they’ll share the same with you.