In a society that celebrates the public broadcast of an individual’s life through multiple mediums, the return to a more modest ideal may be the only way forward.
Increasingly over the last ten years or so, Millennials, and what some refer to as Generation Z, have been pressured to share intimate aspects of their lives over the internet. If you look back, there has been an interesting trend with this.
Facebook let users share as much content as they wished with whomever they wished. There are adaptable security settings, so that users could decide what is fully public and what is just for their friends. Then came Instagram and Twitter. More popular with the younger Millennials and most of Generation Z, they developed the new phenomenon of broadcasting edited snippets of their lives, but with infinitely more people. For Twitter, in 140 characters or less, information as menial as what someone ate for breakfast can be shared with the entire world. Alternatively, look at Instagram. You can see snapshots of someone’s day, all shown through their chosen filter. To anyone looking in, they see more, of less. What I mean by this is, these social platforms created a performance space whereby Shakespeare’s “all the words a stage, and all the men and women merely players,” is truer than ever. Users were given the ability to post designed posts, and create whatever version of their lives they wish others to see. This is well shown in this video:
Now this incessant need to digitally capture and share intimate aspects of our lives has been challenged.
A large number of celebrities have had their phones/iCloud accounts (or whatever the culprit was) hacked, and extremely intimate photos published online for all the world to see. What is crazy is just how many people have looked up those images, and don’t feel that there is anything wrong with it. Now Jimmy Kimmel is not necessarily a news source, but take a look at how these men feel about looking-up the images:
The publication of someone’s personal images without their permission is not only abhorrent, but in this case has been referred by some as a sex-crime.
As a reaction to the hacking/leak, a lot of people are starting to distrust online security, or more specifically the cloud. Back in May, it was discovered that Snapchat images were not necessarily as short-lived as people would hope. So what is the solution?
Two things need to happen. Firstly, people need to think of uploading to the cloud as getting a tattoo. Be aware that once something is online or in the cloud, it is there for life. This is extremely useful for businesses or other such organizations, or even for storing someone’s music collection. However, it is not necessarily the appropriate place to keep things you will regret down the line. If Facebook’s ever changing privacy settings will teach you anything, it should be that if something is online, it is open to being accessed by whomever. Just look at this video to see what I mean:
Secondly, there needs to be a change in our attitudes to social media overall. I recently read a book by Ben Elton called ‘Blind Faith.’ It is set in a dystopian future where the golden rule is “only perverts do things in private.” In this world, much like Orwell’s 1984, there are cameras everywhere, except here instead of big brother watching – everyone is. Nakedness is celebrated and everyone blogs incessantly. What struck me about this book is that it is an exaggeration of a reality that we are fast approaching.
If nothing else, this celebrity leak should challenge this generation to rethink whether they want social media. Should it return to its’ original roots as a networking platform, to connect and share in the experiences of their friends? Or rather as a stage, whereby they are willing to broadcast all of themselves in the vain hope of being seen or heard, and therefore feel important? In 2010 The Guardian published an article on how Mark Zuckerberg felt that privacy is no longer a social norm.
Maybe it’s time we shaped a new norm.