Dominic Campbell of Futuregov lives what he calls a ‘declarative lifestyle’.
With multiple web presences on sites such as Flickr (photo sharing), Twitter (microblogging), LinkedIn (professional networking), Facebook (social networking), YouTube (video sharing), Last.fm (musical taste) and Upcoming (events diary), he’s the first to admit he holds little mystery.
This doesn’t bother him. Why should it? He doesn’t see the need for any distinction between his public and private, personal and professional identities.
On this steamy summer’s evening at the Royal Society of Arts, Dominic has been invited to defend his ‘lifestyle’ in front of a ‘Moral Maze’ style panel and public audience under the topic Private Lives – A Thing of The Past?
The panellists, Claire Fox, Matthew Taylor, Iain Dale and Stephen Whittle are all at least a decade older than Dominic and waste no time in setting about (very nearly) dismantling his argument.
The conversation goes something like this:
Stephen: In a previous life you might have been described as an exhibitionist….why don’t you care?
Dominic: There are major benefits through revealing yourself online like this. I’m the kind of person who tries to live a really honest lifestyle. I’m trying to break down the barriers. Everyone goes to work and ‘acts’, but I don’t feel I have to be a different person at work to the one I am at home.
Matthew: You’re young, idealistic and pure – can you not see any moment in your life when you won’t want to be like this?
Dominic: I can see that once you’ve started on this path, you’re effectively trapped and there’s no way out later. I guess it’s very unlikely that I’ll ever get to be a politician.
Claire: One of the great advantage of our modern cities is that we’ve moved away from the ‘curtain-twitching’ of the village. You seem to be doing your best to replicate village life – with yourself as the village idiot. Do you really have to grow up in front of the rest of us?
Dominic: No-one has to look at this stuff if they don’t want to. I’m talking to my friends. No-one else needs to care. Tweets [microblogging on Twitter] are inane and pointless.
Ian: If they’re pointless, what’s the point?
Claire: Don’t you see that this is demeaning to yourself?!
Dominic: I probably don’t have an answer to that. In many ways it’s about being a micro-celebrity – and that’s the celebrity of the modern world.
With comments from the floor falling into line with what we’ve heard so far (young bloke: “I guess I represent Generation Y – I’m searching for an identity, for love and affirmation”; older gentleman: “We’ve crossed the boundary between public and private in such a way that we’re heading for calamity,” etc), the generation gap is palpable.
An important point from the floor raised by John Lloyd, was that all this online activity pre-supposes a benign state. Dominic is assuming that no harm will come to him. We don’t have a Robespierre or a Stalin in charge at the moment – but that’s possible.
Dangerous fanatics aside, I’m all for a bit of online soul-bearing. So what if Dominic wants to detail his private life on Twitter or show his friend’s stag party photos on Flickr? Personally, I’m up for it. But then, like Dominic, I earn my living as a consultant. And most consultants would favour the old adage, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”.
Let’s hope history doesn’t prove us wrong!