Private life presented publicly in network age

By Zhang Yiwu
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, June 3, 2011
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Recently, many images of the private lives of public figures have been released. From the pain of Strauss-Kahn in jail to the controversy of the illegitimate son of Arnold Schwarzenegger, they leave people stunned.

Whether it involves a powerful head of international organizations or a celebrity or a politician who make a difference in the world, we can easily find that in this era, scandal, gossip and crime are shown freely on the platform of social media and networks.

People's views on these things are actually contradictory. On one hand, these things are just disorder within their private lives, they don't need to be presented publicly. They are published because of human nature's desire and curiosity, and may not be completely believable. We believe too much of the speculations are not necessary and have no meaning.

On the other hand, people also can't help paying attention to these things. They are attracted and full of curiosity and excitement.

In fact, since the introduction of modern media, this kind of things has become a common scene. Networks turn people into onlookers. The way networks bring our private lives to the public is surely unprecedented. Individual's private lives are no longer personal problems, and anecdotes don't circulate just in small circles any more. They have become the focus of society.

Through the media and Internet, an individual's actions affect all aspects of life and cause public interest. Whether legal or moral, the public and media will always follow along to the other side of human nature of curiosity and explore privacy. This role of the media and Internet has also increased the anxiety of our society.

It seems that there are two sides of this matter:

One is the people were originally not "public", but what a person does elicit strong public interest and become a public figure. This is the source of many people's popularity. They always exaggerate outrageous behavior and deliberately escape social norms to attract attention.

The other is the public figures are strictly required. Public scrutiny exists anywhere and any time. Publicity will easily destroy the efforts of one's life. It requires the public figure to be cautious and self-disciplined.

In brief, for individuals, more stringent protection of themselves is always necessary. For social networks and media, it is also meaningful and valuable to calm down and do not kick up a rumor.

The author is professor of department of Chinese language and literature of Peking University, doctoral supervisor.

(This article was first published in Chinese and translated by An Wei.)

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of

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