This past week, to make the time on my Concept2 Rower pass more quickly, I listened to talk shows on Internet radio (well, the Internet streams of "real" radio stations). On one show they interviewed the founder of Voyurl, a service which "allows you to share your clickstream and find out who is looking at what, when and where. You can connect to friends, find new sites, or just see what others are looking at real-time."
Basically, it's a way for you to let other people know everything you are viewing on the web (and how long and often you viewed it), and for them to be able to do the same in return.
The interviewer was skeptical, thinking it was carrying the Facebook and Twitter type sharing a bit too far (and with little benefit). The interviewee touted how it would allow you to more effectively review the time you spend on line, simplify returning to sites you visited before, and locate other interesting pages based on where your friends have been going.
So, what do you think? Would you use the service? Would you share all your web surfing with the world, or at least friends? Would you be interested in seeing everywhere your compadres clicked to?
If you go to the Voyurl site, at the bottom it answers the question, "Why?" with:
The internet is a big place. But when you rely on people, and not algorithms, you get a chance to see things differently. Take a peek; you might like what you see.
Interesting…it's suggesting that software programs cannot make recommendations for you as well as the behavior of those with like interests. By seeing what your friends spent time viewing, you can unearth places on the web you'll enjoy.
Now if you, like me, find the idea of someone peeping into your on-line life a tad disconcerting, they have an interesting blurb connected to the heading, "It's ok."
A little creeped out? That's cool. But don't worry, it's ok to look. Besides, you can turn off voyurl at any time, for those, ahem, unmentionable sites. Plus, you can set your own filters. See, it's not that scary.
First, they are telling us that it's A-OK to voyeuristically follow somebody on-line (I'm sure that the "Voy" in "Voyurl" is from "voyeur")…and second…if you are visiting locations on the web you shouldn't…don't worry about it…you can hide your tracks anytime you want.
So much for the one potential real benefit I could find in the service…helping with accountability.
How about you? Would you want it so everyone could see where you go on the web? If so, why? If not, why not?
How about just Facebook (assuming you use it)? Would it be okay if everyone knew how you leveraged its functionality? Or, for instance, would your significant other be a bit disturbed at the amount of time you spent on (and number of times you visited) an ex's Facebook page?
Well, I think you get the point and suspect the majority of those reading this would not be excited about Voyurl's offering. However, the important question is, "Why not?" Why would you not sign up for Voyurl?
If it's because sharing every second of your life with others is neither healthy nor humble, that's a good reason. If it's because those who want to judge you will unfairly misread your on-line movements, that's a good reason. If it's because you want to be able to view "those, ahem, unmentionable sites" and still keep a respectable face for family, friends, neighbors, and church…
Then perhaps you should remember how you felt when, as a child before Christmas, you sang "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." If you were a mischievous youth, did your heart pump a little faster when you got to, "He knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake"—because it meant he might bring a lump of coal?
Santa is a myth. God is real. You can avoid services like Voyurl. You can encrypt pictures. You can delete your web surfing history and clear your browser's cache every time you leave your computer. You can use a program that scrambles the bits of files you delete. You can turn off all cookies. You can even use an on-line anonymizer to completely cover your cyber tracks. However, when "the Lord comes, [he] will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart" (1 Corinthians 4:5) and "each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done" (1 Corinthians 3:13).
A childhood myth does not know (or judge) what sites you visit; an omniscient God does.
However, do not lose hope. Whether on the web, on television, in a magazine, or otherwise…we've all likely failed at one point or another. Don't lose heart, because…
…we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:15-16).
Do not use Voyurl when it becomes publicly available, but do use the web as if Voyurl is broadcasting every one of your on-line movements to the world. If you are a Christian, trust God's grace to cover past indiscretions, but follow Jesus' advice and "sin no more" (see John 5:14).
1 voyurl – it's ok to look. (n.d.). Voyurl. Retrieved March 18, 2011, from http://voyurl.com/welcome
4 All quotes are from the English Standard Version.