For more on my book The Peep Diaries: How We're Learning To Love Watching Ourselves and Our Neighbors visit http://thepeepdiaries.com
There’s so much Peep culture in the daily news, I can barely read it all, let alone blog about it. And yet I know I should be doing a way better job of getting everything that’s happening out there onto the blog. But I just can’t keep up. I need an intern. An assistant. A nanny. A secretary. All those things. But that’s not going to happen so I just have to struggle on through info overload.
On Wednesday, November 4th, I woke up in Houston, Texas. At my hotel they were handing out the Wall Street Journal. I grabbed one to read on the flight home. (A rarity since I rarely read the print edition of any given newspaper.) In the section Personal Journal, I discovered not one, not two, but three Peep-related stories.
First, the lead story on the page: How Tough Times Yield Model Children.
This is basically a piece on how out of work parents are trying to land their kids modeling and acting jobs to make the family some money and, one suspects, give themselves a sense of purpose in the process. So let’s cut to the chase: the main source of employment for these kids (outside of modeling in clothing catalogues) are Reality TV shows. “Also contributing to the growing number of mini-models are reality-TV shows featuring children, agencies say. Such shows have transmitted the culture of fame-seeking; some shows—"Toddlers and Tiaras" and "Little Miss Perfect"—even follow the lives of child pageant contestants. Page Parkes Corp., a talent agency in Houston, Texas, is just one of the agencies seeing more interest from parents who want their children to be on television.” Uggh. What a loathsome trend. Children should not be on Reality TV. As I’ve argued in the book, they can’t possibly consent to having their everyday actions manipulated into entertainment. Putting them in that situation is disgusting. But with 10% of the population unemployed, and the perception that your life is just one more resource you can exploit to maintain your lifestyle, well, the allure of Peep culture continues to grow.
Next I read a story called Fitbit Sees How You Run, Walk and Sleep
This article introduced me to a whole array of devices I hadn’t heard of before. I’ll let the author of the article explain: “I've been testing Fitbit, a tiny $99 device with a motion-detecting sensor that, when worn, digitally records one's distance (walking or running), calories burned and steps taken—as well as sleep patterns. The Fitbit wirelessly sends the data to its Web site, fitbit.com, for storing these minute-by-minute details. And the site has space where users add details like food and water consumption so it provides a more accurate picture of calories burned versus calories consumed.” Hopefully the connection to Peep is obvious: this is another way we can peep ourselves and, in cases where the sharing of your data profile is enabled, each other. What’s more entertaining then relentlessly tracking our every move, and comparing to others of similar age and physical condition? These kinds of devices are also another example of a new type of self-tracking device that conditions us to love surveillance. Another of the new location based devices that accumulates data about us in whole new ways, with our permission, but not necessarily with us fully coming to terms with the consequences of what we are doing. I know, I know, it’s just an exercise device — but it’s also fascinating data that employers, insurers, governments, and a wide range of corporations would kill to get their hands on. Our willingness to adopt these technologies is fascinating, frightening and very very Peep.
Finally, the third article to appear in the Journal on that pretty regular day of November 2009. The article was called The Greatest Generation (of Networkers) and explored the problem of educators trying to slow the tide of online connectivity in schools. It starts out telling the story of a 17 year old kid at Millwood High School in Halifax, Nova Scotia who is sent to the principal’s office after being caught texting in class. While the principal is reprimanding the teenager, his fingers are surreptiously moving in his lap: the kid is texting! The article quotes the principal next, who says: "It was a subconscious act, young people today are connected socially from the moment they open their eyes in the morning until they close their eyes at night. It's compulsive." A fascinating observation and one that I believe is true: The desire to peep and be peeped — often described as online socializing — is compulsive and addictive. Almost a quarter of today's teens check Facebook more than 10 times a day, according to a 2009 survey by Common Sense Media.
We’re learning to love watching ourselves and each other so fast, I can barely keep up.