The Peep Diaries

The Peep Diaries
How We're Learning to Love Watching Ourselves and Our Neighbors

Press Reviews

London Review of Books

"'Blog posts, images, videos, tweets, dating profiles and friend updates', [Niedzviecki] says, are creating a culture without privacy, a culture of 'wanting to know everything about everyone and, in turn, wanting to make sure that everyone knows everything about us. [He] argues that the handful of people who walk about with digital cameras on their heads, so that they can put every part of every day online, and the people who beg to be contestants on reality TV shows, are simply extremes of the Peep that engulfs us all."

-Stephen Burt

Christian Week

" . . . 'The Peep Diaries' sheds light on the darker corners of the rapid changes in how we communicate, the repercussions of such a shift in paradigm and the root causes for its embrace." —Kyle Armstrong

Pacific Sun

"The Peep Diaries is a crash course in the many ways our culture exposes itself and an investigative, often humorous look at just how attention-starved and lonely the majority of people are. Talking with many of the average Joes who expose themselves through tweets, blogs, posts and webcams, Niedzviecki . . . [argues that] the more we become connected by computers through our obsessions with 'reality,' the more disconnected we become from reality."

National Post

"The Toronto-based social commentator presents a compelling case that more and more of us want to know everything we can about everyone else and want everyone else to know almost everything about us. This is Peep culture, and Niedzviecki declares that it represents the most fundamental transformation of Western society since the Industrial Revolution."
—Don Butler

The Globe and Mail

"Social critic and indie-culture poster boy Hal Niedzviecki explores, with humour and insight, how we got hooked up to this IV drip of perpetual connectivity, of watching and being watched. It's a great read; it mixes frank interviews with people pushing the boundaries of voyeurism and exhibitionism, alongside a bracing critique of the social context that got us into peep culture and the forces that now exploit our participation in it."
—Nora Young

The Hour

"The celebrated Toronto-based indie-cultural commentator offers a stinging critique of our mass move towards erasing privacy, as online social networking sites, reality TV and an obsession with celebrity encourage us to display our every detail to the entire world. An important book that encourages critical thinking about how this shift affects our society and communities."
—Stefan Christoff

"Niedzviecki avoids the doomsaying that plagues so much commentary about sociotechnological change. While he discusses Peep's troubling implications for privacy, surveillance, and criminal justice, he also recognizes that interconnectivity can be empowering, educational, and entertaining. Peep’s potential to add value to our lives deserves such reflective appreciation."

—Bill Flanigen


"The book is well-written, extremely funny and insightful. In the end, readers with social networks may think twice before posting certain photos, messages, and daily annoyances for the world to see." —Kacy Muir

Book News

"This book describes 'peep culture' as a rapidly emerging cultural phenomenon made possible by technological change. It is incarnated in so-called reality television, celebrity gossip sites, blogs, YouTube videos, social networking sites, and other media that are moving what was once private, from the mundane to the embarrassing, into the public sphere. In order to investigate 'peep culture,' the author immersed himself in virtually every aspect of it that he could, from trying out for reality television to joining every social network he could. He reports on these experiences and ruminates on the implications of 'peep culture' for entertainment, society, sex, politics, and everyday life."

The Washington Post Express

"If you're looking to better understand how reality TV and Twitter have become so influential, Hal Niedzviecki explores our increasingly exhibitionist culture in his new book 'The Peep Diaries.' Fear not, this is no dry academic exercise. Although Niedzviecki does have some genuine insights, 'The Peep Diaries,' as befitting a book with 'peep' in the title, is also well-stocked with salacious anecdotes. The suburban housewife blogger with fetishes for spanking and Star Wars is just one memorable example."

-- The Washington Post Express

Ottawa Citizen

"If Niedzviecki is right -- and he presents a disturbingly compelling case -- more and more of us share the feeling. We want to know everything we can about everyone else, and we want everyone else to know almost everything about us. . . Peep was born of our fascination for celebrity, nourished by Hollywood, television and the whole apparatus of pop culture. It drew critical sustenance from reality TV, the best-established and arguably the only profitable Peep industry, which implanted the notion that even nobodies, at least briefly, can be celebrities. But it is our embrace of social networks and other Internet sharing sites that is turning Peep into an unstoppable force with potentially profound consequences."

—Don Butler

Book Forum

"[Niedzviecki] leaves us with some small but well-considered suggestions, and one big case of uneasiness about Peep technology: He urges us to be even more protective of our children's privacy, to be wary of Peep’s unintended consequences, and to be open to the pleasures of not knowing everything about everybody. The Peep Diaries is a skeptic’s screed about some crucial ways our society is transforming, and his skepticism, much like mystery, is in diminishing supply." —Nick Poppy


"Fascinating stuff. Scary, but fascinating. This is a highly enjoyable read. You may be afraid to be read it, but I think everyone should. You should know the facts, then think about how your actions have repercussions. You never know when or how they'll come back on you, whether innocent or guilty. This book provides so much real life information, such thoughtful musings, on contemporary "peep" culture and how it defines modern society. It left me wanting to know more, and I'm already reading more on the topic." —Lisa Guidarini

Winnipeg Free Press

"The Peep Diaries, published by San Francisco-based City Lights, is a compilation of revealing narratives, blog posts and researched sociological observations, all interestingly intertwined. It leads to the conclusion that today 'life is lived on constant record because you never know when you're going to want to rewind something, see it again, confront a family member, show it to the police, sell it to the highest bidder, or post it on your blog.'" —Joseph Hnatiuk

The Coast

"For the accessibly smart, well-researched and humourous The Peep Diaries, Niedzviecki interviewed bloggers, reality show participants and others who opened up their lives for public consumption. He also throws himself into the peep world: Niedzviecki invites 700 Facebook friends that he doesn't know out for free drinks (one person shows up). He concludes that though money and a brief shot at fame seem like motivations, basically we're struggling to find our individual voices in a conformist world. But because Niedzviecki is a forward-minded thinker, he's not making a case against the internet, but rather against corporate systems that regulate our lives: 'Peep culture is our twisted answer to the problem of the dehumanizing of humanity.'" —Sue Carter Flinn

The Chronicle Herald

"The Peep Diaries might very well be the most important work of non-fiction to be released in Canada this year — even this decade. Informative and entertaining ('infotaining'), the author's revealing — and often disturbing — look at our growing obsession with online over-exposure should be required reading for anyone hoping to better understand who we have become and where we are headed." —Stephen Clare

Pop Matters

"Niedzviecki has written a well-researched tome, one that reportedly took two years to write, about the seismic shift in pop culture that sees millions of people who are willing to expose themselves in ways both literal and figurative. . . I whole-heartedly recommend this book to anyone who is participating in our Peep-obsessed culture. If you blog, Tweet or use any other form of social networking to reach out and connect, this is an insightful and penetrating tome about the truths and consequences of taking part in that process. Indeed, as The Peep Diaries reveals, these are interesting times to be both a voyeur and an exhibitionist. The only remaining question is: where do we go from here?" —Zachary Houle


"What's Peep, you ask? As social critic Hal Niedzviecki explains it in The Peep Diaries: How We're Learning to Love Watching Ourselves and Our Neighbors, Peep is the innate human desire to know and be known, to see and be seen, to communicate and be communicated with. We are social animals, goes the Niedzviecki Hypothesis, and this primitive compulsion to reach out and touch (or view) someone harks back to our days as mutually grooming primates. . . . Taking us on a guided tour of over-the-counter spy gear, chat rooms, personal blogs, surveillance technology, and even the bizarre world of online amateur porn, The Peep Diaries provides a lighthearted overview of oversharing. " —Janet Kinosian

O Magazine

"'You need to know. You need to be known.' That is the compulsion fueling what cultural critic Hal Niedzviecki calls 'peep culture, the bastard love child of gossip'—our mass addiction to twittering, tweeting, snooping, spying, blogging, gawking at reality TV and YouTube, spilling our secrets on Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Ping…the list goes on. 'Call it surveillance with benefits,' he writes of our consuming need for human connection in The Peep Diaries (City Lights), a virtual descent into the loneliest of worlds." —Cathleen Medwick

USA Today

"'We all have to go to status-update charm school,' jokes Hal Niedzviecki, author of The Peep Diaries: How We're Learning to Love Watching Ourselves and Our Neighbors, who joined a slew of online social networks to investigate how they are changing the definition of privacy. 'Just one in every million status updates is worth reading, maybe one in every 5 million if you're looking for poetics.'" —Maria Puente


"For obsessive Twitter-ers and Julia Allison haters, journalist and cultural critic Hal Niedzviecki's fascinating nonfiction book might just be required reading. In it, he examines the world of what he has coined 'Peep culture,' the oversharing of one's life through blogging, Facebook, YouTube, etc., for a mostly anonymous audience."

The Globe and Mail

"In The Peep Diaries, author, social critic and indie-culture poster boy Hal Niedzviecki explores, with humour and insight, how we got hooked up to this IV drip of perpetual connectivity, of watching and being watched. It's a great read; it mixes frank interviews with people pushing the boundaries of voyeurism and exhibitionism, alongside a bracing critique of the social context that got us into peep culture and the forces that now exploit our participation in it." —Nora Young

NOW Magazine
"Hal Niedzviecki's new book coins the term 'peep culture' and harnesses a ton of research – as well as his impressive analytical skills – in a way that’s sure to make the term stick. Peep culture refers to the phenomenon that currently finds us all yearning to watch and be watched. It’s spawned everything from reality TV to Facebook to complex spy technologies used for entertainment and other, not so benign purposes. . . . Writing with astonishing clarity – and even beauty – Niedzviecki piles on the ironies. In peep culture, TV shows like 'Cops,' originally intended to curb crime, wind up promoting it. . . . Essential reading."

Real Simple

"Real Simple collected some of the best books out there to help you find your great summer read. . . . If You're Having On-Line Withdrawal. . . .Take a peek at The Peep Diaries an erudite (but not too erudite) look at the culture that Facebook, Twitter, et al. have spawned." —Sara Nelson

Publishers Weekly
"Ubiquitous video technology and the Internet have ushered in a 'peep culture' that makes us all either—or simultaneously—exhibitionists or voyeurs, according to this eye-opening study. In good participant-observer fashion, Niedzviecki (Hello, I'm Special) dives into our mania for observing and revealing pseudo-secret personal information: he starts a blog, applies to reality television shows, does video surveillance around his house and slips a GPS tracking device into his wife’s car. He’s content to merely interview, rather than join, the middle-aged couples who post their amateur porn online. He argues instead that peep culture reprises an ancient impulse to bond through the sharing of intimacies, but worries that our digital version of village gossip and primate grooming is a weak and fraudulent foundation for community (out of his 700-odd Facebook friends and blog readers, only one showed up for his offline party). Niedzviecki’s smart mixture of reportage and reflection avoids alarmism and hype while capturing the strange power of our urge to see and be seen." —Publishers Weekly, June