A few weeks ago a friend copied me and ten other friends on an email she’d sent to the organizer of an event she had recently attended. Apparently as she was standing in line to pay her admission, several other people were jumping the gate without paying and the organizer did nothing about it. In her email, she asks fair questions: Why was this allowed to happen? Why did you just sit there? How big a sucker am I?

A few hours later the organizer sent a passive-aggressive response ten times longer than her complaint and hit “Reply All.”

I wrote back:

Thank you for copying me on your response and providing evidence of your lack of professionalism. In this age of social media, you should really take more care.

He didn’t write anything further.

This past week, a Facebook friend posted a photo I presume he took on his cell, of a thirty-something guy wearing black yoga pants, a powder blue T-shirt, and flip-flops. “Give your wife her clothes back,” read the caption.

This got me thinking: it used to be George Orwell’s faceless, authoritarian Big Brother in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four we feared. These days, it is us, the collective common folk, who comprise Big Brother. Make one wrong move and we will commemorate it via our cell phone cameras and shoot it to the Internet in a matter of seconds. Where it will live forever and ever, world without end, amen.

The same day I saw the man in yoga pants being berated on Facebook, I saw something I had never seen before on the streets. A big woman whose double-wide, double-high Paula Deen hair added to the big.

But not as much as the pants she was wearing: extremely tight leggings in the most giant animal print I’d ever seen. Each animal spot the size of a paving stone. I couldn’t take my eyes off those pants as I drove by. My split-second instinct was to make a U-turn and take a picture of her.

I snapped out of it and kept driving.

It’s a different world from the one that existed when I was in my teens and twenties. Used to be that snapshots taken at a basement party enjoyed a huge lag time. You had to use up the film. Remember to take it to the drugstore to get it developed. Remember to pick it up. Remember to take the snapshots to school and then wait as they slowly got passed among your friends and then made their way back to you. By then the party is so last-month and nobody cares anymore. Unless, of course, it’s a picture of someone getting a wedgie or a swirlie.

But the world does not operate like this anymore. It’s decidedly digital. Lightning fast. Potentially damaging. Difficult to escape.

The first time I encountered this hard, cold fact was in mid-August when our new band played its first gig, with the idea (sanctioned by the club owner) of bouncing our material past a live audience and working out the kinks. A lot of people showed up. We were excited.

At some point during our first set, we all saw the guy with the video camera. Every time I looked up, that camera was aimed right at us. But it didn’t register. During a break the guy came up to John and said, “You sound great. Mind if I put a couple of songs on YouTube?”

There were five other people waiting to say hi to John. “I guess not,” he said.

Two days later, the guy with the video camera sent our bass player a YouTube link. We were shocked to see that our entire show had been uploaded. There were 28 videos: one for each song we played that day.

We were horrified. For one thing, the soundman showed up a half hour late, plugged in a few things, turned a few knobs, then left. That, combined with the audio capability of the video camera, equaled 28 videos in which you could see us band members bobbing up and down to music you couldn’t really hear. It defeated our original purpose. We didn’t want to go down like this.

(Don’t bother looking for the videos. They’ve all been taken down.)

Just this past week, John got into a political argument, and I use that term loosely, with someone on Facebook who reminds me of every Enterprise rental car agent I’ve ever encountered: slick, cocky, ultra-amped on caffeine.

I had actually unfriended this person back in May, the week of the gubernatorial recall election in Wisconsin, after he, a conservative, made a number of offensive comments on my wall and wouldn’t stop after I warned him.

This week, after he and John got into it again, he sent John a screenshot of a comment “your charming wife,” aka I, had written to him back in May. Let’s review:

  • “I know you think you can debate, but you wouldn’t know an argument if it bit you in the butt.” Check.
  • “I see the hateful things you post on your wall.” I used to before I dumped you. But I see you’re still doing it elsewhere. Check.
  • “My conservative girlfriend [name withheld], who voted for Walker today and happens to be one of my closest friends in the world, would be appalled.” Check.
  • “You should be ashamed of yourself. Take your Red Bull and go play somewhere else.” Check. Check.

These days you have to be careful of what you do, wear, and write because it stands an excellent chance of being commemorated in perpetuity. I am lucky this time, because the videos of us on stage looking and sounding less cool than we thought are gone, and I’m 100 percent fine with the comment I made five months ago to Red Bull Boy.

I feel sorry for today’s younger generations, who may never enjoy the thrill of having a secret stash of compromising Polaroids in their underwear drawer that only they and their significant others have seen. Which will be destroyed in front of each other when they split up. There will be no delicious secrets such as the compromising tape in the shoebox on the top shelf of the closet no one uses, that only they and the person they made the tape with have seen. They will never experience the joy – or the relief  – of ripping said tape out of a plastic cassette and burning it on the grill when that relationship ends.

A different world indeed.