Cady Kuzmich. News Editor
Typically, a nation’s youth plays the role of the progressive wave of change, a catalyst, demanding higher standards of their government and of society. As protests erupt over the globe, the youth in the US remains in a deep social media-induced slumber. We seem to have become distracted from what matters by a shameless narcissism, an addictive consumerism and a constant stream of status updates paired with eerily targeted ad campaigns. All the while, as we mindlessly scroll through our news feeds, we are being closely watched by our government and corporate interests.
Still, it seems as if no one really gives a damn. The only thing our generation appears willing to protest is making real human connection. We stare at our cellphone screens, scuffing our shoes and kicking up dirt in a desperate attempt to avoid eye contact with strangers. Yet, at the same time, we broadcast our every thought, accomplishment and life event to our “friends” on the WorldWide Web in a desperate and lazy attempt to connect. We’re living an unhealthy contradiction.
Recent college graduate Patrick Dore speaks for many when he says, “I think government surveillance is overreaching and a dangerous path we should be wary of.” Most people I’ve spoken with have expressed their discomfort with government surveillance, so why are we still sharing our information so openly? Why don’t we get angrier over government surveillance and stop playing the game?
Our unsettling willingness to provide every detail of our lives (birthday, hometown, relationship status, likes, interests, work experience, thoughts, etc) with glazed over eyes has almost become natural for many of us. We normalize this insane invasion of privacy and hound those who opt out of the social networking craze. Has information sharing become so natural that government snooping fails to faze us? Is it a matter of hopelessness or simply not caring? If we’re really such private individuals in person, then why don’t we value privacy more than we do online?
Maybe our great-grandparents and grandparents would have boasted their bootlegging escapades if they had the chance.
Many of our parents and grandparents may even be on social media websites now. But I would guess we have different motives. I asked my tech-savvy eighty-nine-year-old Grandma, Phyllis Sharp, what she thought about privacy in the age of social media. While she has a Facebook account, she uses it mostly to keep in touch with family spread across the globe and to see photos of all her grandchildren. Broadly speaking though, she told me “I don’t like Facebook. It shows me too much of other people’s private feelings. I don’t mean my own family. I like to see the photos mostly. I very rarely post anything on Facebook. I mostly use email for communication.” She added that she “dislikes the government’s disregard for our privacy rights.”
You may argue that these sites are harmless. You may not be bothered that Facebook shares your information. You may not raise a brow when the advertisements on your page seem eerily targeted to you specifically. You may not care that the government could use Facebook to identify you using facial recognition software. Are we comforted by the security state we live in? Is Facebook harmless? I’ve been told that what may seem unthreatening can in fact be the most insidious.
In the end, social media isn’t the enemy. It can help users connect with family and friends around the globe. You can’t deny its usefulness as a tool for fundraising, collaboration and networking. It’s important to keep all the grandmas in the loop. The real problem lies in our utter lack of concern for our own privacy when it’s a known fact that we’re being closely observed.
We’ve become so desperate to connect, so afraid to make ourselves truly vulnerable enough to make real human connections the old fashion way that we resort to social media and give up most, if not all, of our privacy. Oneonta Junior and English major Kyle Howerton offered his thoughts on the topic, saying, “Social media allows people to measure the acceptance of their social/person inadequacies with things such as likes and favorites.” Howerton hits the nail on the head. We make a bargain with sites like Facebook. We agree to give up our privacy so that we can “stay connected” and be reaffirmed when our “friends” like our statuses. Social media sites suck us in with promises of connection, when in the end it makes us even more vulnerable.
It’s time we start asking why in an age when we’re being put under a microscope, we are so eager to overshare, to add our information to the giant database, yet so reluctant to make the same connection away from a screen and a keyboard.