The Internet and social media gives us the freedom to put our opinions, beliefs, artistic style and passion out in the marketplace of ideas with ease never before seen in the history of human civilization. With services like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat we have the ability to almost instantly communicate information to anyone in the world who has unfettered access to the Internet. It is truly incredible when you genuinely try to comprehend the intricacies of these networks, but where does our personal freedom come into play in such a complex system?
Facebook was founded in 2004, slightly over a decade ago, and some people reading this already regard it as antiquated, and old. But, really, in technology terms, Facebook actually is ancient. The technology industry shows its age more apparently than almost any other. Think about it; not many people would actually want a throwback iPhone 1 to use on a day-to-day basis, just to be trendy. The computing power simply isn’t adequate enough. Previously, Moore’s Law observed that technological advancements exponentially grew approximately every 18 months. This trend seems to be accelerating, and is estimated by some to be as short as a year.
On the reverse side of the personal freedom to express yourself online, is the fact that when you put something into the marketplace of ideas, it may very well receive criticism. True criticism traditionally calls for expertise or professional knowledge of the subject matter, but in the online culture of “trolling,” the definition doesn’t seem to apply. The Internet is still the “Wild West,” and law is struggling to keep up, so your protection is low unless the incident becomes highly escalated.
Let’s just face it, we all do or say regrettable things from time-to-time, especially when maturing into early adulthood. The online world just makes those mistakes much more public and … permanent. Take comedian Trevor Noah, who isn’t even sitting in his seat as the upcoming host of the Daily Show, for example. He has already been torn apart online because of a post he made years ago, which was dug up and used to criticize him.
Though the comment was not funny and very inappropriately sexist; even feminist, Roxanne Gay, commented that if you combed through any rising young entertainer’s tweets for long enough, you would probably find something “interesting.”
These days, if you make a mistake online, it will be there forever. Not only on the sites themselves, but also on anyone’s phone that decides to, with the easy click and hold of two buttons, take an undetectable screenshot of the picture or post. This is a new type of threat, and can have profound consequences. Obviously, if you are sharing something you created, or an art form online, you run the risk of the idea being stolen, and legal ramifications. Yet, there is also the phenomenon of cyber-bullying, which has proven to be extremely malicious, and some cases actually dangerous. People tend to “find their voice” a little easier behind their computer screen and locked door.
One good rule of thumb in the digital world, and real world for that matter, is to remember nothing is free.
It is not only other people that can be of concern. You must realize every time you download a new “free” app, or even update current ones, you run the risk of more fine print being inserted into the Terms and Conditions, which we so cavalierly accept. For instance, as of January 2015, Facebook inserted a clause into their T&C that they could use your phones GPS to track where you are, to “see if friends are close by,” and for advertisements, “…until it is no longer useful to provide you services, like keeping your GPS coordinates to send you relevant notifications” (AKA — as long as they want). This technology literally gives them the ability to track exactly where you go, creating a “profile” of who you are. They can now send even more personalized, targeted ads directly to you, and have a basic understanding of what you “like.” Get it? Remember, Facebook is a publicly traded stock, and the executives have a fiduciary relationship with their shareholders and stockholders to produce.
One good rule of thumb in the digital world, and real world for that matter, is to remember nothing is free. If you are using an application, which you didn’t literally pay for, you are absolutely paying somehow. Even apps that you did pay for could be harboring unsafe aspects.
Today, it is easier to share our interests with other people than ever before, but it comes with a price. If you don’t like being followed around by Facebook, delete the application entirely, and just use the PC web portal, which is far less of an invasion of your personal privacy and freedom. If there is something you don’t want everyone knowing, don’t put it on the Internet. Besides completely abstaining from social media utilities and a majority of the rest of the Internet, your personal freedom and privacy is at risk. The best method to protect yourself is to really consider, “Do I want this to be attached to me forever?