Is privacy the new status symbol?
Because grammar sure as heck isn't; no one bothers to take you down a mental notch or two anymore merely because you've misplaced your apostrophe's, have chosen to carelessly split your infinitives, or have left your prepositions to waggle their desperate little legs off a cliff they can't crawl up from.
(GOD. That HURT, people. Drawing from bluebison.net.)
Even stretch limos have lost a little of their luster these days, and women are buying slightly less designer-looking designer handbags, if they are buying handbags at all, as opposed to resenting the fact that you're required to carry around a whole bunch of crap -in an asymmetrical manner!- in order to be considered a functioning member of society. Not that I have any feelings on this matter. No way. No how.
But privacy? I suppose it makes sense. Privacy has become a scarce resource, and scarcity (this is possibly the only lesson I learned in high school economics, other than how to sleep with your eyes open) drives demand. It's not that maintaining your privacy is impossible; it's just that, in the Internet Age, keeping stuff to yourself has become a whole lot more difficult.
Sure, you could opt out of Facebook. You could move to the mountains of West Virginia and live off the grid and raise sheep, too, but I suspect your address and the (erroneous) value of your home would still be visible on Spokeo, and possibly also the information that you enjoy mutton and the occasional farm implement. Fortunately or unfortunately, if you're trying to run a business, get work as an artist, or maintain any kind of network of acquaintances, Facebook has become something close to a must.
So there sits the date of your birth, out there for everyone to see, prompting reams of sincere and half-sincere congratulations come your natal day -far more than you ever would have received without cybernetic assistance. (Let's be honest; the average person can remember only about three birthdays, and two of those are your best friends' birthdays circa age five.)
I admit to playing this game. I check the sidebar, and if I've spoken to you in the last couple of years, or if I remember you fondly or think you might someday supply me with information on the mating habits of emperor penguins, I'll post something on your wall.
May 9th happens to be the birthday of two good friends. And so, hunched over the keyboard this morning, I began to type a public message and stopped. Then I hesitated. I backspaced. I opened up a private message window.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, I wrote. And then few more lines. The message was almost exactly what I would have written for public consumption, but it would only be seen by one person, the intended recipient, rather than by 400 of his friends, acquaintances, and people he'd met on the bus. I pressed send. It was, in that moment, the most valuable thing I had to give.