By Jessica Shearwood
Lurkers, stalkers and posters fill tiny towns and busy streets, according to Hal Niedzviekcki, who gave a keynote presentation on the subject at UMW on March 31.
Neidzviekcki is the author of Peep Diaries: How We’re Learning to Love Watching Ourselves and Our Neighbors.
He traveled from Toronto, Ontario, Canada to Fredericksburg to discuss his studies on what he calls “peep culture,” or displaying ones life on the Internet through mediums such as facebook.
Niedzviekcki’s writing has previously appeared in newspapers and periodicals across the US, including the New York Times Magazine, Playboy, Adbusters, the Utne Reader, The Globe and Mail, the National Post, Toronto Life, Walrus and Geist.
He refers to his project in his blog as “One man’s journey into self-exposure, surveillance, and the future of voyeurism.”
He hopes to figure out why many people want to exhibit extremely private information on the Internet.
He does it by trying out peep culture for himself.
“If I’m ever going to understand peeps I figure I’ve got to do it myself,” Niedzviekcki said.
Peep culture is a relatively new idea, which is emerging during the age of the Internet.
“[Peep culture is] online, on TV, everywhere we look its people revealing the intimate details of their lives to total strangers,” Niedzviekcki said. “You know you can see someone date, get married, have a kid, redecorate the house, and then you get sick and then you die and it’s all out there.”
Peeping begins with people connecting through mediums like reality TV, blogs, Twitter, Youtube or Facebook.
“[After peeping,] we begin to peep each other and began to use others as characters in our lives,” Niedzviekcki said.
Niedzviekcki first discovered peep culture when he became a father.
He found that after he had kids, he lost the majority of his old friends that didn’t have them.
With a limited social arena, he began networking on Facebook.
On his venture to make new friends, he started planning a party and invited 500 friends he had on Facebook.
“I wanted to take my facebook friends and make them real friends,” he said.
Out of 500 people, 40 said they were coming, 100 said maybe, 150 said no and the rest did not reply. He called a bar and made reservations.
Around 10:00 p.m., the first and final guest showed up.
What Niedzviekcki found was that people are desperate for connection, that individuals posting their dirty, clean and neutral laundry is a cry for community. The loneliness is influencing people to display their personal worlds online.
“Humans want to be in tight knit groups, ” he said.
Niedzviekcki suggests the more our world runs into their versions of factories, the more the loneliness kicks in. Competition is expected in cubical living and that urge to be the best diminishes close ties.
Peep culture is attempting to fill the void for that loss of community.
“We are losing those communities much faster than we can find ways to replace them,” Niedzviekcki said.