On the Internet, EVERYBODY Knows You're a Dog (Who Drinks Starbucks)

Published in The New Yorker July 5, 1993.
Image from The Cartoon Bank
In 1993, a now famous cartoon by Peter Steiner appeared in the New Yorker magazine. "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog."  This cartoon went viral and was widely circulated at the time (ironically by fax machine and photocopy). It helped establish the mystique of the Internet, and led countless people into believing in the anonymity of the Internet.

According to a presentation I attended by the Massachusetts Department of Education's special task force on cyberbullying, this concept of anonymity has created the power differential (a common element in all bullying) and far more kids engage in cyberbullying than traditional bullying.  It is because the kids think they are invisible.

But this couldn't be farther from reality. On the Internet, not only do they know you are a dog, they know your browsing habits (used to serve you ads), your purchasing profile, and based on your geolocation, could likely tell which Starbucks you are sitting in enjoying your latte.

Not that this is all bad.  I lead a pretty benign life compared to someone in the public eye, and have no big secrets, so having my iPhone app know where I am so that it can point to the closest coffee shop is a good thing.

Having said that, there are some things in my life that are nobody's business. Why, oh why would I ever put them up on a social media page or a blog post?

The convenience of the Internet should never trump common sense.  Keep your privates private.


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