Along with my explorations about digital identity, one of the topics I've devoted a few thousand words to is the issue of private vs public in the digital realm. With all the echoes of the 70s assertions that the personal was political and the political was personal, the private has become public as the public assails the private. And the canon of TMI - "Too Much Information" - resounds.
Despite the increased level of sophistication introduced into Facebook's privacy settings, it is still all too easy to have one's sensibilities assailed by a deluge of information concerning one's "friends" - who may be anything from friends to acquaintances to total randoms - because they either don't know how to stop broadcasting their every neural event, can't be arsed to, or have fallen prey to one of those noisy apps like "Farmville" which are designed to shrink your social circle to the emotionally onanistic - leaving one prey to the temptation to click the "hide" button on their newsfeed.
While hiding the noise from some long-dead 70s group's fan page is a no-brainer, deciding to pull the plug on the newsfeed of a real, live friend is an act laden with a little more symbolic weight. Is it the same as, say, tuning out their off-key singing in the shower, or the mutterings they make to no one in particular while they're cooking in the kitchen? Or is it more analogous to blocking their emails, ignoring their phone calls and returning their letters - unopened - to sender? Admittedly, "friends" who send groupmails photocopied into cards at christmas time probably don't deserve the descriptor, and similarly "friends" who broadcast their Mafia Wars status continually through the day deserve to have their real status update ("been dumped by LTL - am about to slit my wrists - goodbye cruel world") ignored inamongst the tsunami of appspam... but then, is there any point in retaining their nominal "friendship" other than appearing just marginally better networked than Bob in Accounts who has three fewer "friends" than you do?