In his novel, "1984," George Orwell portrayed a society that was under constant surveillance by "Big Brother," the leader of the ruling party. "Big Brother is watching" has become synonymous with the dangers of government invasion into private matters.
Published in 1949, the book was Orwell's prediction for the future. In some ways, his prediction has come true, but the watchful eye Orwell envisioned may not belong as much to the government as to video cameras that seem to inhabit every corner of our existence - and sometimes pick up behavior we would rather they didn't see.
Poor Britney Spears can't go out to the clubs at night without someone videotaping her in a questionable state of sobriety. Audiotape of a recent incident involving O.J. Simpson may provide damning evidence against the former football star. And, speaking of football, Kansas University coach Mark Mangino might have acted differently toward one of his players a few weeks ago if he had known his angry outburst was going to show up on YouTube.
Forget Big Brother. It's like having a mother who not only has the proverbial eyes in the back of her head but also has thousands of cameras monitoring her children for bad behavior.
Have you ever noticed how many times in a day you pass in front of a security camera at an office or retail business? Those tapes might provide you a valuable alibi by establishing that you were somewhere else when a crime was committed, but if you do something wrong, well, the camera doesn't lie.
Are you hanging out with someone you shouldn't? Or doing something you said you wouldn't? Anyone with a cellular phone in his or her pocket is a potential snitch.
The Mangino incident is a good reminder that you never know when something that seemed like a private moment can become a public event - caught on tape for all to see, over and over again. Even if the action the camera catches isn't illegal, it might be something you wouldn't want your mother - or everyone on YouTube - to know about.
It's like living in a small town where people know a little too much about your business. You can't do anything without everyone finding out.
Loss of privacy is no small concern in today's society. That concern is valid, but the trend might have a small silver lining if the thought that someone may be watching causes some of us to behave in a more suitable and civil way - just in case.