How Facebook Will Change Our Scandals

For a country that claims to be obsessed with protecting our privacy, we certainly enjoy eroding it ourselves.

The explosion of Facebook and Twitter means that for the first time, huge swaths of our private lives are available to anyone with a computer screen and internet connection. It's not just the pictures and the step-by-step documentation of meals. A new algorithm can decipher a user's sexual orientation based on his profile and friends. NPR unveiled med students posting inappropriate pics on Facebook, from typical boozy fare to actual violations of patient confidentiality. Will Facebook's popularity make damaging scandals more common, or will it make the breaking of private-life scandals seem merely commonplace?

A combination seems the most likely outcome: Scandals will still exist, but popular reaction could ease. As with monetary inflation -- the more money out there, the lower the value of the dollar -- we could experience scandal inflation. With so much private information sloshing around the net,  scandals could lose their luster.

It's happened before. Political analyst Stuart Rothenberg told the Boston Globe in 1999 that Republican Presidential contender George Bush would have to commit a horrible action to derail his candidacy because "Clinton's indiscretions have numbed the public." America had grown accustomed to all of Clinton's affairs, and these political errors lost their shock value.

A Facebook scandal like the one exposed in the NPR article about medical school students will not come as a surprise because, well, we've seen those kinds of pictures. Obama's off-the-record "jackass" comment about Kanye West was met with some outrage and a lot of shrugs. Maybe the future is plentiful scandals seeming prosaic. After all, who wants to throw stones when we all live in glass houses of our own making?

Presented by

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A Stop-Motion Tour of New York City

A filmmaker animated hundreds of still photographs to create this Big Apple flip book

Video

The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"

Video

This Japanese Inn Has Been Open For 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.

Video

What Happens Inside a Dying Mind?

Science cannot fully explain near-death experiences.

More in Business

Just In