These days, there is technology that exists to track your every move. But we don’t even need it, because (many) people just put their business out there for everyone to see and never once consider the consequences. For example, I have one friend that posts everything they eat, when they are leaving the house, where they are going, when they arrive at their destination, and everything their child says and does. On the surface, it seems harmless. You think “well, I’m only sharing with my friends and family, so what’s the big deal?” But are you?
As we’ve seen with this Cambridge Analytica nonsense, our “private” accounts aren’t nearly as “private” as we all thought. But they’ve been telling us this all along, and we ignored it. No one ever reads the multi-paged user agreements and Terms and Conditions, everyone just clicks “I Agree” as quickly as possible to get on with it. This revelation has brought this lack of privacy to life and many people are reconsidering what they share, when, and how. But why did we ever think it was safe to share in the first place?
“All human beings have three lives: public, private, and secret.”
― Gabriel García Márquez
I grew up in the 80s and 90s, finishing high school in 1997. I went all 13 years of elementary, middle, and high school without any real internet (though we certainly did have “internet” in high school, but nothing like what we have now). I made it through my first two years of college without ever using my university-issued email address. I had a computer, in the loosest sense of the term, in that it had power and a word processor, that I got from the university junk store, and a dot matrix printer that got me through those first couple years, and life was grand. I had a real phone that rang whenever people went out, and I remember calling half of a roster once to tell them that even though we lost the football game, we were still having a party. I was dropping my my rent off one day at the rental office and my friends drove by me, stopped the car, and I got in and we took a day trip to Indiana to buy Everclear. Just because we couldn’t get it in Ohio, and we wanted to have a hand grenade (NEW ORLEANS!!) party. We gathered at one house to watch Monday Night Raw and all the Wrestling PPVs. We went to BWs every single Thursday. We didn’t waste time taking pictures, selfies, or groupies, we just lived.
We used MapQuest and sometimes didn’t get where it said we would. We used payphones, calling collect and saying “I made it home, don’t accept the charges,” to let our parents we made it back to college. We had Dime Lines, where we added a certain extension to our outgoing calls and our long distance charges were 10 cents a minute.
Then everyone got computers. The house I lived in my junior year had six phone lines: one for each computer, and two phone lines. First, it was AOL. But no one dared be online 24/7. Who could afford that? The disk we got in the mail only gave us 250 free hours and each one was PRECIOUS. Then we had ICQ. We were instantly connected to people around the world, whether we knew them or not. We could put up “away messages” to let people know we were unavailable, but we were rarely “away.” Then it was AIM. Then along came Zuckerberg and his Facebook, and things changed, slowly, at first, and then BAM, everyone AND YOUR GRANDMA had Facebook.
At first, people didn’t share everything, and posts even had character limits (remember those?). Then suddenly, people were “checking in” all over the world and “tagging” people, whether they wanted to be tagged or not, in their location posts, and making profiles for their 2-hour old babies, even though Facebook says you need to be 13 to have a profile, without ever thinking “hey, this might not be a good idea.” Just to put this in perspective, the same suburban stay-at-home mom that side-eyes your playground behavior if you aren’t within 1-centimeter of your 5 year old because “CHILD ENDANGERMENT” has a Facebook profile for their 2-year-old.
Social media has also put us “in contact” with our favorite celebrities, so much so that we feel ENTITLED to know what they’re doing at every second of the day, and get mad if they actually covet and cultivate a private life. Celebrities like Kerry Washington, Blake Lively, and Beyonce (Bey more than anyone else) have extremely private lives, and it drives people crazy. But maybe they’re on to something. Beyonce, in particular, controls every single part of her brand (because that is EXACTLY what she is: a BRAND) and her Hive, in turn, is also fiercely protective of her privacy. Why do we, non-celebrities, not care that any jackoff in their grandma’s basement lurking on the dark web can easily find our location, grab us, and we’re never heard from again?
Facebook has recently released new “rules” for establishing your privacy and, apparently, people are shocked by what they’re sharing, even though we have never once questioned clicking “Allow.” People are deleting their profiles (though still posting non-stop on Instagram, which, by the way, is owned by Facebook). But perhaps we should take our cues from some of the most notoriously private celebrities and learn to just cultivate our brands. Social media, after all, is mostly not real, and you can certainly shape the way people view your so-called perfect lifestyle.