June 1997
s m u g
target audience
by Leslie Harpold


You Won't C-Me

I have long and languorously enjoyed the sense of privacy the phone has offered me. I love that I can have an important business conversation in my underwear, or even more scandalous, when awakened from a dead sleep after staying up all night to work on a project. As long as I can get lucid fast enough and know what I'm talking about, I can drift right back to the arms of Morpheus Baby as if I had been up and at 'em with the birds. I work at home a lot, and keep my own hours. It works really well for me.

I think I put enough personal information on my web sites, in my articles and here in the pages of SMUG, I'm not afraid to open up a vein and tell you the most embarrassing details of my life. The difference between that and if I had to talk to you all on C-U-See-Me is that I have control over when and how these details emerge. If it was a real time video conference, you could catch me on a bad hair day, or wearing my black industrial "home" glasses instead of the smart tiny wire titanium ones I wear out in public. Due to the position of my computer, it would be easy to tell if I made my bed that day or not, if my laundry basket was full to brimming or if I had candlewax all over my mantle because I forgot to clean it up the night before. That's way more than you want to know, I'm certain, or need to know for any reason.


I don't have any kids. If I did, though, I wouldn't want to read them bedtime stories on C-U-See-Me via laptop. Why? Not because I'm not planning on being a loving mother, but I don't want my kids getting a weird impression of what's real and what's TV. Kids have a hard enough time coming to grips with there not being thousands of tiny people inside the TV, they surely don't need to worry their parents are inside their computer looking right back at them. In this ad, little Billy appears to be about there, but his folks are yuppie enough to have set up a booming computer system in his room. Lucky kid. Face it, the phone feels closer. It's right there in your ear, just for you. Anyone could walk into the room and break up the intimacy between Billy and Daddy. Computers are something you do alone, and making them a family activity just feels wrong to me. The real has already been sufficiently subverted, we don't need to add the whole depersonalization of parenthood. TV is babysitter enough, just because you give your kids a computer doesn't mean they are going to get smart with it.


I'm not here today to talk about parenting, as someone with no kids, I can't claim to be an expert. What I can say is why don't they just advertise C-U-See-Me software for what it really is? When you go looking for C-U-See-Me sites and related information on the web, you read about people having a spicier version of cybersex. It's warts and all cybersex, literally, since the camera doesn't really lie, (although good lighting and makeup can fib a little) but essentially, most people with this software use it to get off more than they use it to get on with the business of the day.

I called White Pine software to ask them if they really believed this was the ideal fix for Daddies-on-the-go.

Me: Hi, Can I ask you a question about C-U-See-Me?

White Pine: Sure, how can we help you?

Me: What do people use C-U-See-Me software for?

WP: Lots of things, business video conferencing, keeping in touch with relatives and friends, talking to each other...

Me: And cybersex?

WP: I've heard of that, but the product has many applications.

Me: Do you think it's mostly cybersex, though?

WP: Um...

Me: All the web sites I've seen where C-U-See-Me is mentioned have kinda slutty pictures on them from C-U-See-Me "conversations."

WP: I'm not really sure what people are doing once they have the product.

Me: Do you use the product?

WP: Yes, I use it to talk to my...

Me: (Interrupting) Have you used it for cybersex?

WP: I think you have something else on your mind besides product information.



So, my suspicions were neither confirmed nor denied, but I wish before they hung up I'd asked if I could C-U-See-Me with the person I was talking to for that phone call. There are numerous videoconferencing apps out there with a more "businessy" slant, so I know that on some level, they must know exactly what they created, if they didn't create it for that purpose expressly in the first place. The first arenas to embrace new technology are always pornography and gaming, why is White Pine trying to wash all the dirt off them with this family values style ad campaign? Probably because they know the naked people, the people who want to be seen in all their undressed glory all over the internet will figure that trick out for themselves.

I think a better slogan would be "see people naked you'll never meet." That would sell some software.




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