Please forgive me; today I’m going to be a bit more philosophical, rather than looking at technical stuff. It happens to me once in a while; I start thinking too deeply, fall into a few hours of intense pensiveness, and come up with some strange theories. Then I take two aspirin and lie down, and a few hours later I’m fine and geeky again. So please excuse me, this won’t last long…
In the book that I used to teach students the A+ Computer Technician’s course, the author at some point made the statement that “If you’re not on the net, you don’t exist.” With that statement he implied that you had to have some form of online identity in order to “truly be someone”.
That reminded me of the Sandra Bullock movie, “The Net”, about a woman whose entire life was deleted from the “system”. Suddenly nobody knew her, everyone thought she was someone else, because that’s what the computer said. Her total identity was caught up in the bits and bytes floating around Cyberspace. So I started wondering how true this is these days.
I know identity theft to the extent of “The Net” is still a bit extreme; in lovely South Africa, at least, a problem like that would be sorted out with an affidavit, a few Rands, and about 72 hours spent in line at Home Affairs. But, I wondered, what about the statement that you’re a nobody if you don’t have some form of online identity?
Well, in all honesty, I think it’s nonsense. I recently started searching the internet for one specific guy. He is one of South Africa’s most successful businessmen. He is also a committed family man and very actively involved in charity. And yet very few people even know who he is. He is brilliant enough at business to stay in the background, benefiting from the business financially, but not even being seen by most people. The point is, apart from a few isolated interviews, Google couldn’t help me at all. He doesn’t have a Facebook profile, he’s not on MySpace (and even if he was, I would doubt that it was actually him), not on Twitter, he doesn’t have a blog (though I would read it if he did), a web site, or anything. He is on LinkedIn, though, but apparently not very active (he doesn’t have any contacts and doesn’t answer messages). And yet this guy is one of THE jet-setters in South Africa. He is known to have contact with guys like Allan Knott-Craig (former CEO of Vodacom) and Ruben September (former CEO of Telkom). He is notorious as a family man. And yet, online, NOTHING. Obviously he isn’t too dependent on his “online identity”…
Which leads to the next question – do we really need technology, and specifically information technology, as much as we think we do? I’d like to hear your thoughts. And I may post a full article about it sometime. But for now, the aspirin are starting to kick in and I’m starting to feel the urge to take up my Lightsaber again. Must be getting back to normal. So, until later then.