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I’m all for sharing, but why the online obsession with revealing every detail of your life? | Charlie Brooker

Facebook and Spotify automatically want to share my every waking action, so that I’m like a character in The Sims. Hover the cursor over my head and watch that stat feed scroll

Sharing. Now there’s a basic social concept that has somehow got all out of whack. The idea behind sharing is simple. Let’s say I’m a caveman. I hunt and slaughter a bison, but I can’t eat it all myself, so I share the carcass with others, many of whom really appreciate it, such as my infirm 86-year-old neighbour who hasn’t had a proper meal in weeks because he is incapable of killing anything larger than a woodlouse. Have you tried grilling a woodlouse? It’s scarcely worth the effort.

But it’s not all bison meat. Let’s say I am still a caveman. The other thing I share is information: the thoughts inside my head or stirring tales of the things I have done. I grunt a hilarious anecdote about the time I dropped a huge rock on a duck and an egg popped out, and mime scandalous gossip about well-known tribesmen. I’m the life and soul of the cave-party.

All this sharing served a purpose. It kept the community fed, as well as entertained and informed. Now zip forward to the present day and, like I say, sharing has somehow got all out of whack. A small percentage of the population hoards more bison meat than it could eat in 2,000 lifetimes, awarding itself huge bison meat bonuses on top of its base-rate bison meat “salary”. I say “bison meat”. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m using it as a clever metaphor for money.

The huge salaries and bonuses, we are told, are essential if we are to prevent this tiny percentage of selfish, hoarding arseholes from moving overseas. Imagine if they flew to Singapore and started selfishly hoarding things over there instead. Drained of their expertise and reassuring presence, how would Britain cope? Within days we’d be walking on all fours and devouring our offspring for food.

I don’t want to panic you, but that’s the reality. Never mind weeping over the size of their bonuses: we should be dropping to our knees and giving them blowjobs, tearfully imploring them to remain seated each time we come up for air. Treble their wages. Form a human ring around Britain’s airports to prevent them from leaving. And for God’s sake don’t ask them to share anything. That kind of talk merely angers them.

Sharing is for the rest of us. Not sharing money or bison meat, but personal information. Where we are. What we’re doing. Share it! Make it public! Go on! It’s fun!

Increasingly, I stumble across apps and services that expect me to automatically share my every waking action on Facebook and Twitter. The key word here is “automatically”. Take Spotify, the streaming music service. I have written before about my admiration for Spotify, about what a technical marvel it is. A world of music at your fingertips! Incredible!

The love affair was doomed. Spotify recently reinvented itself as a kind of adjunct to Facebook and has subsequently adopted some truly hideous “social features”. For instance: it will tell other people what you’re listening to, live. Yes, you can switch this feature off. That’s not the point. The point is that it does it by default. By default. IT DOES IT BY DEFAULT.

When Sony launched the Walkman back in the late 70s, its main appeal was that for the first time in history you could stroll down the high street listening to Neil Diamond belting out Sweet Caroline and no one could judge you for it. It made you the master of a private world of music. If the Walkman had, by default, silently contacted your friends and told them what you were listening to, not only would no one have bought a Walkman in the first place, its designers would have been viewed with the utmost suspicion.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for sharing thoughts, no matter how banal (as every column I have ever written rather sadly proves). Humans will always babble. If someone wants to tweet that they can’t decide whether to wear blue socks or brown socks, then fair enough. But when sharing becomes automated, I get the heebie-jeebies. People already create exaggerated versions of themselves for online consumption: snarkier tweets, more outraged reactions. Online, you play at being yourself. Apply that pressure of public performance to private, inconsequential actions – such as listening to songs in the comfort of your own room – and what happens, exactly?

It’ll only get worse. Here’s what I am listening to on Spotify. This is the page of the book I am reading. I am currently watching the 43rd minute of a Will Ferrell movie. And I’m not telling you this stuff. The software is. I am a character in The Sims. Hover the cursor over my head and watch that stat feed scroll.

You know how annoying it is when you’re sitting on the train with a magazine and the person sitting beside you starts reading over your shoulder? Welcome to every single moment of your future. Might as well get used to it. It’s an experience we’ll all be sharing.

Yes, sharing. A basic social concept that’s somehow got all out of whack. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds