The Peep Diaries: Chapter 1
So how do you keep in touch with all your new friends, online sex partners, and fellow micro-beers-of-the-Pacific-Northwest enthusiasts? You use Twitter, of course. Estimates for this mini-blogging service—that allows people to follow your short updates answering the question "what am I doing right now" via instant message or online—puts current users at around five million people (the Twitter creators don't make their numbers public). Here's a sample of the many million "tweets" sent every day: "bbq at amy + rd's. picking up wine first" (sent by "babiejenks" of Los Angeles, at 2:37 p.m., April 13, 2008). If Twitter's not your thing, you might consider using relative newcomer Seesmic, which merges the brevity of Twitter with the functionality of YouTube to create a network devoted to what it calls "Video Conversation"—basically, people posting very short videos responding to or initiating "conversations" with other users.
It's no wonder that another exploding Peep service is amalgamating all of your various social networks, blogs, tweets, and other various connective applications into one easy-to-use stream that manages your online presence and those of the friends you follow. There are fifty or more such nascent services, with names like Ping, Lifestream, FriendFeed, Plaxbo, Digbsy, Profilactic (funny!), and the presumably ironic iStalker, which comes with a feature that lets you chart your life on a timeline. The value of Lifestream is ultimately that it's one-stop shopping for your pals to drop by and peep you. "Lifestream is a media and social aggregator," reads the accompanying promotional text, "that will keep you and your friends informed about what you're doing online at a glance and in realtime. With Lifestream you can put all your profiles and activity from your favorite web services on one page, making it easy for your friends to see your newest bookmarks, your favorite videos, your tweets, photos you've uploaded, your newest blog posts, and more."As the need for Lifestream suggests, more than ever we're putting everything online, particularly photos and videos. On sites like Liveleak, RedClouds, VoyeurWeb, Dailymotion, Flickr, Shutterfly, Snapfish, Metacafe, Revver, and Brightcove, billions of images are uploaded and archived, millions more added monthly. Google, owner of YouTube, reports that roughly thirteen hours of content are uploaded to the video storing and sharing service every minute. Everything from sober family gatherings to drunken frat parties to kinky amateur sex parties are online all the time for all to see. We are creating public archives of the events of our lives like never before. Our friends and relatives appreciate our generous uploads. But who else is watching? We don't know, and we may not even care. This apparent lack of concern is a major aspect of Peep culture—we're not just, or even primarily, sharing with people we actually know. We're putting material out there for everyone to see. In doing this, we're showing ourselves to be naïve, optimistic, wildly enthusiastic, and more than a bit confused. The thing is, what we post online can and will be used against us. And what we innocently give away to the entire world has a hidden, potential value that most of us can't even imagine.