When strangers know your middle name...

Last night I was introduced to a stranger at a party who already knew my full name, the breed of my dog, and the way I like my eggs cooked in the morning. With a nervous laugh I shook the guys hand and desperately glanced around at my friends expecting to see them slowly backing towards the door with fake smiles and wild eyes, dialing 000 on phones behind their backs. Instead, they were beaming at the guy as if they were Kevin Rudd stumbling to get to Jessica Watson as she descended her little pink boat, not the way you would usually react to someone who might have an AVO against their name. Apparently it's completely socially-acceptable these days to openly confess to stalking someone.

Turns out he was another poor soul addicted to face book who I had apparently accepted as a friend although I'd never actually met the guy. Perhaps this says just as much about my embarrassing facebook habits as it does about his (I'm not a friend-collector, I swear...). These sorts of awkward meetings are not uncommon in a world where no-one seems to be able to reflect upon how nice the weather is, have any sort of fun, or even get dumped without twittering about it, posting photos on face book, or receiving an embarrassing relationship status update before the eager eyes of the entire cyber world.

But while we all seem more than happy to broadcast the intimate details of our daily routine to the cyber world (why we care what the guy in our Spanish lecture had for breakfast is another question), the damages being sought in legal cases for invasions of privacy in the real world are substantial enough to buy back your dignity even if you’re Kanye West at the VMAs. Our generation seems to be just as confused about the value of privacy as it is about why Julia Gillard keeps her hair red even though she's living with a hair dresser.

But the courts themselves don’t seem too sure of their stance on privacy either. While a bruised and battered British actor had no action for invasion of privacy against the journalist who trespassed into his hospital room, secretly photographed him lying gaping-mouthed and semi-conscious in his hospital bed, and then published it in the tabloids, Sienna Miller recently won $79 000 in damages while being photographed by the paparazzi. Couldn’t the scoundrels tell that her blow-dried hair, something-thousand dollar outfit and twinkling eyes weren’t an invitation to take her photo?! Gosh.

Perhaps even more perplexing, is that a generation who lives by the ethic "work smart not hard" doesn't seem to have realised yet that the more we twitter and blog and write on each others’ walls and live vicariously through our much more social, more attractive (it’s much easier to fake good looks in a self-snapped photo in half-light), more eloquent cyber-selves, the harder it is to fake a sickie when your boss can get online and see you tagged in a photo at the pub...

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