Friday, May 07, 2010


I happened across this great little article in the NY Times about a man trying to find the original occupants of his apartment on the Upper West Side. I'm a sucker for New York history, for some reason. That city is a treasure trove.

To be honest, I'm a sucker for the history of almost anyplace I've lived. Seattle had a fascinating history, as does LA. And in Vermont I actually dated the youngest member of the White River Junction historical society. Youngest by like 35 years.

But this, in conjunction with the discovery of this truly annoying website called Spokeo, which culls marketing data and pictures from the web to give inaccurate information to the world about you, made me wonder if this kind of mystery is a thing of the past. Or if the glut of information makes the mystery now figuring out the real truth, rather than just finding out what the truth may have been.

We leave so much information now, much of it true, but much of it not. The website had my correct address, phone number, and age range, but incorrect information about owning my home, pictures with my name of different people, and assumptions about my preferences. I don't know why it angered me so. It seems like people only about 5-10 years younger have a completely different understanding of privacy. Most of them think it's cool or just inevitable - the cost of doing business. And think about how much incorrect information, addresses, phone numbers, names, people give because they have to join something and don't want to give out correct information. The mind boggles.

I'm too much of a twentieth century guy, I guess. I have some expectation of privacy. Now, with empoloyers checking faceboook and not hiring people because of who their friends might be and how they act, we are in a different game. I'm thinking that though we won't have the fun of poring through endless pieces of paper to find those one or two pertinent clues, the future may be a whole host of answers and our job will be to figure out which one's correct.

I still come down on the side of loving the mystery. I was thinking about Jeanne Eagels for some reason this morning, who supposedly rocked the entire country in her stage performance of Rain, and then went on to star in the original version of The Letter, which is impossible to find - I think only a few prints exist. That just wouldn't happen today. We'll have record of everything. It's good, I suppose, but I'm a little sad for the death of the mystery.

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