First we wanted the world to know our most intimate and banal thoughts through Facebook, blogs and tweets. Now we have persuaded ourselves that the world will pay for the privilege. Susan Edmunds looks at why we are selling our private moments - and parts - online.
From tattoo space on a butt-cheek to the co-ordinates of an ex-partner's favourite fishing spots to a $20,000 engagement ring, New Zealanders are putting the most intimate details of their sometimes-shattered lives up for sale on the internet.
While some are distributing money raised to charity, others admit their auctions are purely for attention-seeking, revenge, catharsis, or to raise as much money as possible for the least effort.
In 2010, a Northland 19-year-old calling herself Unigirl sold her virginity on the Ineed website for $45,000, to pay for her university fees. There was international interest in the auction and widespread speculation that the stunt was an attention-seeking hoax. The exposure for the site at the time was estimated to be worth $100,000.
On New Year's Eve an auction run by children for a date with their Ducati-loving father closed with a top bid of $155. The purchaser -Meggynz from West Auckland - reported that she had found the man and his family "EXCELLENT to deal with".
This week, a scorned girlfriend advertised the GPS co-ordinates of her ex-boyfriend's secret fishing spots on Trade Me. Trade Me operations boss Mike O'Donnell said he expected her to cop a bit of flak
The woman's ex, an avid fisherman, had left a copy of the co-ordinates when he moved out and she found them while cleaning the garage. When he wouldn't return a bag that held sentimental value for her, she decided to sell them.
"I went to throw them out then thought I'd rather a nice guy got them," says the woman who wanted to be known only as Angela.
The response has generally been very positive, the woman tells the Herald on Sunday, apart from comments from a couple of men "worried about their own co-ordinates".
The auction has put the kibosh on any chance of a reconciliation or friendship with her ex-partner, though. "You'd think I'd sold the holy grail or someone's grandmother."
Another woman, Petra Skoric, is selling her $20,000 engagement ring. "It does have a bit of an airing-dirty-laundry-in-public taste to it but Trade Me is a relatively anonymous place to sell something like that," she says. "And to be honest, I rely on the internet so much in both my professional and personal life that I can't even think of where else I'd sell it."
Skoric accepts that other people will cast judgment on what had been, for her, a very personal possession.
"I don't mind strangers evaluating it - after all, it is just a material commodity when I take myself out of the picture, and it has a retail value. I'm probably more precious about selling off some of my shoes because the ring to me now is just a symbol of something that no longer exists and wasted potential money sitting around."
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Before the internet became popular, says psychologist Sara Chatwin, people would have put ads for unwanted engagement rings and possessions left over from a marital split in the local newspaper, or taken them to second-hand shops.
The anonymity of selling online helps people feel more free. It also gives buyers the courage to look at things they otherwise wouldn't because they could not be seen doing it. But she said people should not be too surprised at the backlash.
"You go on to Trade Me knowing what you're dealing with."
Tina Beznec of Wellington is open about the fact that she ran the past week's headline-grabbing butt-tattoo auction to raise money for herself, donating just 20 per cent to charity. "I deserve it," she says. "I have been made redundant twice over the past year."
She has faced a lot of criticism. "Obviously this auction is not for everyone and I have had a bit of negativity towards it. I have learnt not to take any of the bad comments to heart as it is just one's opinion, which everyone is entitled to. But there is a difference between an opinion and abuse. A few traders have been blocked and reported for being abusive; it's kind of sad."
Her family was at first shocked by the idea, but had come round to it. "I have a very outgoing personality and tend to share everything that goes on in my life with my friends and family."
Jacqui Le Prou, from Calendar Girls strip club, successfully bid $12,450 on Beznec's auction. "Why wouldn't you? It's for charity."
The club previously won an auction to put up some of its strippers in Nelson inventor Glenn Martin's jetpack. She says the strip club bids on things that fit its brand. She is not prepared to say what the tattoo on Beznec's bum will be,saying the pair will discuss it.
Copycat Sammi Strickland, who is offering space for a tattoo on her breasts to raise money for breast cancer, has experienced that. The 25-year-old has been told her auction is tacky, that she is a "skank" and disrespectful to rape victims. Strickland says the comments have got to her a bit, but she tries to shrug them off.
Steven Parker is another of Beznec's copycats. The "tattoo virgin" admits he has been accused of seeking attention - but without the attention, he says, no one will bid and he won't raise the money he wants to go and visit his girlfriend overseas.
"I don't mind making a dick of myself if it gets me where I want to be ... I'm a pretty open person usually."
He says the attention is a bit embarrassing but that's part of the deal with running an auction such as this.
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It all sounds a bit like narcissism. But some auctions - despite their attention-seeking nature - are genuinely about raising money for a good cause. Mark Stevens made the decision to offer his body to be tattooed after seeing Beznec's auction - to raise money for family friend Phoenix Stafford, a 9-year-old Nelson boy who needs treatment for a cancerous tumour in his spine. The auction closed on Friday and raised $1510.
He had hoped to raise more. "With the number of watchers and views I'd wanted it to be a bit higher but any dollar counts."
While getting a tattoo is usually a personal decision, Stevens says he has accepted the idea of handing over the decision to a stranger and is not too worried about what he would end up with. He has made a date with a tattooist for January 29.
Skoric says she thought about selling her ring for quite a while before going through with it, so the emotions were not so raw.
"It actually just sat on my dresser for eight months before I decided I should do something about it, so it was long after the break-up stage. I thought maybe I could have it made into something else but really, things like that carry a lot of emotion with them so I'm not sure if I'd ever really be able to enjoy it without a little part of my heart breaking every time I look at it.
"But also, I just didn't want to deal with it and after all that time of it sitting around, putting it on Trade Me seemed like the easiest option of getting it out of my life."
According to psychologist Sara Chatwin, people know Trade Me is a very public way of advertising things and "often when you're wanting to get rid of something, you have no shame."