Joseph Epstein has a book out called Gossip (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011) which covers various aspects of the snooper/blabber matrix, though the one most pertinent to us at the moment might be his discussion of the Internet variation on the theme:
As far as I know, I have never been directly gossiped about on the Internet. I live, after all, a dullish life that does not provide much fodder for exotic gossip. But I have been insulted innumerable times online, as has anyone who writes for the general public, and insults not made to your face but with the capacity to be instantly widespread are an indirect form of gossip. Stendhal said that to write a book is to risk being shot at in public. But until the Internet, one didn’t know all the tender places in which one could be shot. And there is no redress, not really, not likely, not ever, not so long as the Internet remains the playground of the too often pathological and the Valhalla of the unvalorous, where the unqualified and the outright foolish can say what they please about whom they please, which in the end amounts, as Molly Haskell has it, to “democracy’s revenge on democracy.”
Does Epstein call for regulations? Well, maybe:
Meanwhile, until such time as laws governing behavior in cyberspace are made, or at least an etiquette for Internet behavior is developed, we are all potential Internet victims.
My valor is perhaps debatable, but I would definitely prefer people behaving themselves to people being ordered to behave themselves, purely as a matter of principle. The problem, as I see it, is that J. Random Googler doesn’t always have a way to evaluate what he encounters: it could be complete and utter BS or God’s Own Truth, and there’s no reliable mechanism for determining which is which.
In the meantime, I’m thinking there are distinct advantages to living a dullish life, one of which is keeping down the chatter.