Jonah Goldberg

In other words, there will be marginally fewer Facebook photos of keg stands and more of summer vacation latrine-digging in Third World countries.

But there's a larger point to be made here. We now live in a society in which there's always someone watching. Text-messaging, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, email, etc., amount to the new permanent record. In the past, if you embarrassed yourself in some horrendous way, you could often reinvent yourself simply by moving to a new town and starting fresh. Now your permanent record is in the Cloud and your scarlet letter can be found with a Google search.

Indeed, the Internet is creating unprecedented opportunities for people of low character to advertise it. If Anthony Weiner had simply used the phone as a phone instead of a handheld peep-show booth, he'd probably be the next mayor of New York. If Jofi Joseph (the Obama administration national security aide who used his "NatSecWonk" Twitter handle to trash colleagues and superiors) had restricted his catty gossiping to water-cooler chatter, he'd probably still have a job. Miami Dolphins lineman Richie Incognito couldn't stay incognito because of the ubiquity of cellphone cameras and the permanence of text messages.

Such stories are extreme examples of the Internet culture's tendency to reward oversharing. But they also reflect a much older and broader cultural trend that celebrates self-expression over self-discipline. That tension has been baked into the cake since the Enlightenment, and it's not going away. But it's nice to see society self-correct every now and then. It's a sign of good character.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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