Take "overshare." It seems like the perfect (emerging) word. We immediately get it. Sharing is good, right? And so is networking, updating, uploading, tweeting, blogging, friending, messaging, and linking. But oversharing. That's like overdoing it. That's like having so much fun you end up face down in the gutter wearing nothing but your underwear. Sharing is fun, oversharing is even more fun—sometimes too much fun. Dig deeper and we find that a word like "overshare" raises more questions about Peep culture than it answers. Certainly it suggests the way Peep works: creeping in, promising good times, making it easy to say and do things you'd never thought possible, or, when you really stop to think about it, never considered advisable. But it doesn't even begin to tell us why we're suddenly so eager to share. Or who's on the other side, digesting those pictures of our loved ones, those details of our health problems, those lists of our top ten offbeat comedies. And, most importantly, how do we know when we've crossed the line from sharing to oversharing?
Let's move beyond labels. Let's ask ourselves: What are we really talking about here? For starters, there's what I'm calling Peep culture. Throughout this book, I use the term "Peep culture" (or just "Peep") to refer to what I see as a rapidly emerging phenomenon, a cultural movement steeped in and made possible by technological change, though it would be dangerous and foolhardy to dismiss it as a generational trend solely spurred by the arrival of a new array of techno gadgets. Peep is not just the tweens or the twentysomethings any more than it's the millennials, the boomers, the sandwichers, or the generations X, Y, Z. Young people dabble in Peep without knowing what the implications of their actions will ultimately be. Older generations ponder phenomena like reality TV and social networking, wonder where this seemingly unending narcissistic urge to self-revelation comes from, and then suddenly find themselves with Facebook pages of their own. Though there may be significant generational divides, we're all part of Peep culture. We're all learning to love watching ourselves and our neighbors. Peep's power is that it is widespread and elusive. It's a whispered, hypnotic idea: You need to know. You need to be known. In Peep we feel the cathartic release of confession, the allure and danger of gossip, and the timeless comfort of ritual. When we peer in on each other, we experience the thrill of performance, the purge of the talking cure, the erotic frisson of forbidden sex. Peep culture takes from all those things, but isn't any of them.