Several comments to my 02/17/02007 post have noted that in a future transparent society, no one will make fun of their friends’ past postings because everyone will be in the same confessory boat. The problem with this argument is that we don’t judge behavior by the standards of the time when it occurred; rather, we consistently engage in retroactive opprobrium — retroprobrium — judging past actions by present standards.
Consider early baby boomers and marijuana. For college students in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, it was odd if one hadn’t tried a joint at least once, and of course perfectly acceptable among peers (whether they smoked or not) if one toked regularly. In fact, smoking dope was viewed more favorably than smoking cigarettes. But jump ahead a few decades, and the ‘60s-era boomers from President Clinton on down are now roundly criticized for ever having touched the devil weed, often by members of their same age cohort who themselves once inhaled. Like every generation before, they are rewriting their personal histories, editing out now-unfashionable facts and emphasizing what is still cool. To hear them tell, only a few ’60s-era boomers ever smoked dope and every single last one of them was at Woodstock.
Social mores change — back and forth, back and forth. Today’s permission is tomorrow’s prohibition, and thus today’s teens will discover that they too will be caught up in this endless cycle when they reach mid-life. So the fact that pouring one’s teenage soul out in a blog or a MySpace page is commonplace today is no guarantee that the same generation will not engage in pious, tongue-clicking retroprobrium a few decades from now.