Facebook has changed the way people connect with each other. We can keep in touch with friends who live far away more easily than ever before; we can share pictures, links and thoughts; we can show people that we care about them by simply ‘liking’ one of their posts.
But Facebook has also changed the concept of privacy. When we share something, we expose ourselves to the outside world in ways that are not always predictable. For example, some time ago a friend of mine broke up with his girlfriend because he forgot to hide from her a picture he had taken with his lover. Perhaps Facebook has made lying more difficult than it used to be.
Facebook may have an even greater impact on the life of people who have not just done something unethical, but illegal, too. This is the case of a 18-year-old Taiwanese boy surnamed Cai.
As Apple Daily reported, in 2014 he and a 14-year-old girl made contact through a common friend and added each other on Facebook.
Cai looked at the girl’s pictures and thought she was cute. Later the two of them dated. In August 2014 she went to his house and they slept together.
Afterwards, however, she heard from a friend of hers that the boy had AIDS. She panicked and decided to tell her father what had happened. Since she was still a minor her father decided to sue the guy.
During the police investigation Cai claimed that he hadn’t known the girl was still 17 years old when they had sex, and he dismissed the rumour that he had AIDS. Yet the police soon found out that before August Cai had ‘liked’ some pictures the girl had posted on Facebook. Some of these pictures showed the girl wearing her junior high school uniform. The police concluded that Cai must have known about her age, and they rejected his argument as a ‘sophistry’.
This story may appear trivial and not worth writing about. To a certain extent this is a kind of sensationalist, tabloid-style anecdote. I myself used to hate newspapers such as ‘Bild’ or ‘The Sun’, exactly because they are full of over-dramatized and graphic content. Yet later on I changed my mind.
This kind of stories actually reveal something about a society that the ‘official culture’ often neglects. Historians would be grateful if they had so much information about the quarrels, vices and obsessions of people’s daily lives in the Roman Empire, in ancient China or in the Middle Ages. From a historical perspective, even the very vulgar and banal inscriptions in Pompeii are precious testimonies of a mysterious, distant world. Even stories that are considered scurrilous and profane can help understand a different culture.