Facebook Blurs Reality Online and Off

The tragedy of Tyler Clementi's suicide - from the live streaming of his encounter with another man, to his suicide note, unfolded as so much of our lives do now - online, reports CBS News correspondent Jim Axelrod

"It's interesting, because the kids on the internet, they now say things like privacy is dead," said Sherry Turkle of MIT. "Get over it; you can't put the genie back in the bottle."

The social networking revolution is happening so fast, people may not have had a chance to catch up with the privacy implications.

"There is no boundary, you know, it's the whole world," said Emily Murphy.

Murphy is a 26-year-old high school English teacher. This was her four and a half years ago when CBS News did a story about what was then an addictive new web venture called Facebook.

"They try to market themselves as quirky, witty, or fun in ways I wouldn't know just looking at them face to face," said Murphy.

Since we first met Murphy, Facebook has exploded in growth. This past summer Facebook reached 500 million users. That's one out of every 14 people on earth who now have a Facebook profile. Some projects estimate that will be a billion by next year.

Which is exactly why Murphy uses Facebook much less now.

"That's great, and I know the communication factor is there, but I feel like there's a part of my life that I want to retain that's private," said Murphy.

The internet isn't written in pencil, it's written in ink.

A new movie called The Social Network is number one at the box office this weekend. It examines larger questions raised by the rise of Facebook and other websites.

"Socializing on the internet is to socializing what reality TV is to reality," said Aaron Sorkin, the film's executive producer.

The teacher agrees.

"They (students) are so concerned with their digital or online image and it's a little bit disheartening that they put so much stock in how they present themselves, which clearly can never be a full picture of who they are," said Murphy.

Which might be an important limit in the social networking revolution that many think is limitless.

  • Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the anchor of the Saturday edition of the "CBS Evening News" and a national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley" and other CBS News broadcasts.