Brave New World?

In Should I Even Be Talking About This? on September 10, 2013 at 12:50 pm

When It Comes To Online Privacy, A Disconnect For The Young .


Among other important basics I was taught in elementary school, was the value of privacy. By the second grade, it was clear that privacy was an important and integral part of a good life.  Even as a young teen, my heart went out to the friends of mine whose parents did not respect their privacy- who read their diaries and listened in on their ‘private’ phone calls. It was a blatant sign of disrespect, and many of those particular teenagers spent an inordinate amount of time figuring out ways around their parent’s prying. Code-words, secret notes and blatant lies- there was always a way around it. But the anger these kids felt about the invasion of their privacy was long lasting. Most of the time they weren’t even trying to hide anything dangerous or worrisome, but just wanted to riff on crushes or pop-culture minutia without their parent breathing down their neck. It was a basic human right, and we all deserved to have our privacy respected.  (At least we found out: Overprotective parents raise the best liars)

There were important books written about privacy- ‘1984’ being the obvious choice, but bands also wrote lyrics about the government and ‘Big Brother’, shows like the ‘Twilight Zone’ took on the scary things that could happen should privacy cease to be. Other countries suffered  a complete lack of privacy, which went hand and hand with their lack of freedom. In this country, there were a myriad of protests and outrages over real or imagined breaches of our information. We were, as Americans, Pit Bulls when it came to preserving this important fundamental.


Flash forward to today. That Pit Bull has turned into a docile little mutt who couldn’t be bothered with guarding the door. In fact, this puppy welcomes just about anyone through the door, in hopes of being petted and fed. There is a glaring disconnect when it comes to privacy, and we can thank the computer for that. With the advent of Facebook and social media, many Americans have traded their precious privacy for a chance to be ‘petted’. The kids of today have had their pictures plastered all over Facebook since birth, (by the same parents who -laughingly- ‘rail’ against internet safety for them!) We post pictures of spouses and homes, cars, vacations,  and voice our political leanings, opinions and tastes for all the world to see. Remember that glass house we weren’t supposed to throw rocks at? We all live inside it now. And it will only get more transparent as time goes on.

But the computer has made life so much better and easier! Paying bills, doing research, staying in touch- it’s all there. Some people are even declaring they are addicted to the internet! There are clinics treating Facebook addiction (which is essentially being ‘addicted to yourself’) We can’t and won’t go back to a pre-wired world. But we should still be paying attention to who is paying attention to us. (Imagine if the infrastructure was damaged. How would we fare without electricity, our phones, our laptops? If I know this, as an ordinary citizen, then certainly people wanting to harm us know it as well!) I think we would be ridiculously incapacitated without our connections, and maybe we need a plan?


I left Facebook recently, after having to change the privacy settings yet again! I think we all must realize by now that Facebook’s strategy is to keep shaking up the privacy settings and confusing us, so that for the few hours or days our pages are ‘open’ the advertisers can swarm in like ants on a dropped jelly sandwich and bombard us with advertising, while coveting our ‘private’ information.  This makes both them and Facebook very, very rich. Facebook is that parent, listening in on the other extension! And most of us could care less! Can you even imagine if this went on in the 60’s or 70’s? There would be protests on every corner! And Facebook is only the beginning. We shop, bank and work online now, our private  information is out there- and that’s that. I can’t help but think there will be big repercussions from this loss of privacy, but how do you unring a bell?!


I think I know how this happened, or at least I have a theory. When we were growing up, we were taught that the people who would try and take away our privacy (our  government, other governments, big business, criminals) would be recognized immediately as true evil! They would, perhaps be dressed all in black, sneaking around, scheming against us like villains in a movie. One of us would inevitably discover the culprit, sound the alarm, and we would all fight tooth and nail to maintain our precious privacy and freedom. But the ‘culprit’ didn’t come in dressed as ‘evil’. It walked in like our best friend, high- fiving, smiling and gaining our trust (with a dagger behind its back!) With a saber-toothed smile it offered us a chance to be our own publicists and invent flattering online personas on Facebook, where we could showcase our cherry-picked photos and quips, and edit our lives into something we hoped would inspire envy.  A place that makes us feel look popular and ‘loved’ by raking up into a pile, not just our current-and very real friends- but the people we merely passed along life’s road,  along with celebs and even inanimate products that claim to ‘like’ us! (Before I left Facebook I was actually ‘liked’ by a container of yogurt and a set of tires)


Someone simply figured out that we would never be able to resist the lure of ourselves! The lure of being able to create (Sims like) a person who says all of the right things online, and edits everything just so if they don’t. There is no diet plan to trim our oversized egos. Unfortunately. So someone figured out that our narcissism and need to ‘impress’ was the price we’d pay in exchange for our privacy- and they ran with it. It turned out to be as easy as stroking our massive egos and saving us from mundane errands- like having to drive to the bank, store or work.  Who would have ever thought we’d come so cheap?

What do you think?

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