The advancement of online networking and online engineering has changed the way people live and had provided a faster and easier means of communication. The emergence of social media such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and Instagram had made it possible for people to connect with their family and friends around the globe. Aside from changing the way we communicate, digital technology had also altered the meaning of privacy that poses risks to the American society. This phenomenon is indicated in Clive Thompson's article "I'm so Totally, Digitally Near You: the Daring New Universe of Computerized Closeness", Jeffrey Rosen's "The End of Forgetting", and "Friends without Borders" by Dan Fletcher.
In his article "I’m so totally digitally close to you," Thompson points out that the development of online networking and web communities redefine the meaning of privacy. In the strict sense, privacy is defined as "freedom from being watched or bothered by other individuals." However, with the advent of facebook, privacy dramatically loses its traditional meaning. The man behind this popular social network, Mark Zuckerberg created a Facebook feature called News Feed that serves as an implicit administration that would show changes in a client's profile to all of his facebook friends. This is to achieve his missions of defying the limitations set by geography, making the world more connected and making the people who are separated by a thousand miles more closer. This features allows users to monitor the important events in one's life including his birthday, the games he plays, the celebrities that he likes or follows, his everyday mood and even his whereabouts. Despite distance that hinders personal contact, Facebook makes it possible for the social network user to communicate with his friends in a virtual environment. Thus, the definition of privacy undergoes a significant alteration in its original meaning. With the birth and evolution of social media, the concept of privacy would now have the altered definition of "the state of being free from being personally watched by other other people." Depending on their preference, one can take control of his account by configuring the privacy settings of his facebook account and he can also choose the things that he is willing to share to the virtual world wide web. He has the liberty to opt for a public profile where he shares everything about his life including his private phone number or maintain his "privacy" from choosing the option that limits the allowed audiences for his posts and restricts other friends from seeing other personal information. Thompson argues that the changing definition of privacy can be considered as a positive break through. He justifies his point by providing a narrative of a facebook user. He writes: "Haley found that he was starting to sense the musicality of his companions' lives in a manner he never had previously. At the point when one companion got debilitated with a harmful fever, he could tell by her twitter overhauls when she was deteriorating and the moment she at long last turned the corner. He could see when companions were heading into awful days at work or when they scored an enormous achievement." (Thompson 2013) Through the feature "What's on your mind?" on Facebook, one can share his day to day activities, his mood for the day, his schedules and even his random thoughts. As a result, his friends are well informed of what he is going through even without having a face to face conversation. Facebook users get constant updates on the wonderful and awful things that are happening to their friends on a daily basis. By having a glimpse of their friends' status the people of the 21st century can provide appropriate emotional responses to their friends who needs sympathy, comforting words or words of encouragement and inspiration. In addition, Thompson also highlights the perspective of Laura Fitton, a social networking specialist who believes that posting a status delivers a sense of contentment and the feeling of calmness. This is because the process of sharing an important event or pouring out an overflowing emotion in facebook's status section triggers one to reflect on what he had posted. For instance, if a facebook user posts a status about an awful morning experience at work urges him to look at the situation in an objective manner. His friends will post a number of comments in response to his status and it would drive him to reflect on their point of views. In the end, he would devise a way on how to improve the present condition. This scenario is a proof of the constructive potential of social networking.
While Thompson's article elaborates the good impact of technology, Rosen article, "The end of forgetting" by Jeffrey Rosen explores its negative impact. He starts his argument by pointing out the case of an education student in Conestoga Valley High School. Stacy Snyder posted her picture drinking with the caption "The Drunken Pirate" in her account in MySpace. Sadly, he was denied of teacher degree after the school discovered his photo. Snyder's unfortunate experience implies that the evolution of technology is a threat to the society's security. Posting photos and confidential information in social networking sites and other online platforms is a crucial decision and would always entail risk. The internet is a vast virtual world and like our physical world, thefts also exists in the world wide web. These people are called cyber criminals or computer hackers who steal other people's information for the purpose of generating profit. While there is crime in the physical society, cyber crime is also an alarming problem of the virtual community. Malware attacks, account hacking, and identity theft are just among the most popular crimes in the cyber world that "professional" criminals love to do. Aside from the risk of becoming the next victim of a cyber crime, people who post information or photos in the internet would suffer from another disadvantage. And that is the impossibility of taking back the things that had been posted. The web has a permanent memory, and though people would likely to forget the photos or controversial things that you have shared in the digital platform, the internet would always make them remember. Internet users, especially the teenagers are usually impulsive in posting photos or statements that they would regret after and would want to take back. Unlike our world who is generous and considerate in giving second chances to those who have wronged, the digital community does not offer second chances. It holds a permanent record of a users' past that would either make or break his future. Worst, even if its only a friend who posted someone else' obscene or awful picture that would invite everyone to make fun of the person, he (the one who is in the picture) has no capacity to delete it. The least thing that he can do is to untag his name so that it would be harder for other people to see it. Inevitably, they would still see it because of facebook's News Feed.
Like Rosen who points out that the evolution of internet is dangerous to the public's security, Fletcher shares the same point of view. In his work "Friends without borders," he mentions that facebook tricks the users to reveal their private information. Fletcher points out that "Facebook has changed the way society interacts by demolishing barriers and creating an environment of openness." (Fletcher, 2010) The social networking site encourage its users to share unlimited information from their very intimate photos down to their disturbing thoughts. According to Fletcher, Facebook is constantly changing its privacy policies in order to generate and collect more information from its users around the world. The site entreats the user to make his account public because the more data the user shares would mean that Facebook would be able to sell more information to its private advertisers. Despite the noble declaration of Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg to make the world more connected, their policies are geared towards generating bigger profits. And Facebook attains this materialistic goal by implementing site policies that compromise the privacy of the users.
The three articles examines the impact of the internet in the lives of the people living in the 21st century. Thompson, Rosen and Fletcher have different point of views as to whether the advancement in technology improves or destroys the public's security. The authors explained the negative and positive impact of social media and other online platforms on today's society. While they have opposing stand on the issue on how social media affects the life of contemporary Americans, their articles delivers a common message. They tell the readers that although social media have changed the definition of privacy in the modern world, one has still the power to take control and protect his privacy. He should practice safe and responsible use of the internet by not responding or posting obscene and threatening messages and photos, by not sharing personal information and by thinking the potential consequences of his decision before clicking the share button. Lastly, he must always remember that the internet is a home to cyber criminals who are always looking for ways to steal other people's information.
Thompson, C. (2013). I’m so totally, digitally, close to you. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins.
Rosen, J. The end of forgetting. (2013). Boston: Bedford/St. Martins.
Fletcher, D. (2010) Friends without borders.Time International 175.21, 16.
Fletcher, D. (2010) How Facebook Is Redefining Privacy. Time.
Retrieved from http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1990798-3,00.html
Privacy. (n.d) In Merriam-Webster Online. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/privacy