Privacy is Theft

on May 2, 2017

A million years ago, I read David Egger’s book, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, and hated it so much that I swore I would never read another book by him ever again. I kept to that promise for quite some time, minus the occasional read on McSweeney’s. But the other day, the book The Circle caught my eye. The plot looked relevant and interesting and I was hooked 2 sentences in. To be honest, I was sort of annoyed that I even liked this book due to my loathing of the author. Anyway, the point is, this book gave me a lot to think about regarding social media, privacy, and how easy it is to cross the line.

Privacy is theft. That is the main takeaway from this book. By keeping private thoughts and private lives, we are stealing information that may help others. The idea is interesting to think about but also icky. Imagine a world where every single thing you do is judged. Actually, this isn’t too far away. How many times have you been judged or judged someone else from a single post on Facebook or Instagram? Does the notion that you may be judged for posting something make you think about what you are posting and maybe you decide its not a good thing to share, even though you think that super awesome picture of your kid riding a tricycle down the street is great but she’s not wearing a helmet so you imagine all the troll comments about it? (Run on thought but you get the point.) The thought that you are being watched and judged has you changing your behavior. Its crazy!!

Let’s think back a few weeks ago to the incident on the airplane. So many people stood by filming this man violently getting pulled off a plane to post to social media but not one of these people actually stood up to volunteer their own seat. The people on the plane were outraged but this could have been stopped. Everyone wanted their moment in the sun to share what they were seeing instead of volunteering to de-escalate the situation. Shame on them. Is this what social media has done to us?

I know personally, social media can make me a worse person. It helps me harbor grudges against people I haven’t interacted in months. That is no good for anyone. Social media gives me FOMO. You see small parts of people’s lives and the comparison game starts. I also think about all the images of my kids that I’ve shared. They never gave me their permission to create a digital footprint for them. Yet I took it upon myself to do so. The ethics of it all just get murky.

Anyway, this is all to say that I am going on a social media fast. I am not sure how long it will be, but its something I feel that needs to be done. If you want to talk to me, if you are a friend, you know how to reach me. If you aren’t and are reading this, leave a comment.

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