Recently privacy issues have been at the forefront of all discussions concerning the Internet, especially in relation to social networks.
The issue has been prevalent amongst pundits and politicians alike, with the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones recently discussing the ‘right to be forgotten’ and the EU commission drafting plans to delegate to users the ability to delete personal data they do not want seen online.
All of this is certainly indicative of a new era of technologically sustained interpersonal relationships – however it does put us at a juncture that forces us to ask some stark questions about ourselves.
It is not a mystery that people interact in a different manner when interacting with different people, but the way we all interact with the internet as a medium to others manifests in a curiously homogenous outcome that ultimately means that your online privacy may not matter as much as you think.
This story revolves around that all-consuming insatiable black hole into which everyone and everything is helplessly drawn into orbit – Facebook.
This behemoth has been hallowed as placing the internet directly into the hands of the user; creating the internet in everybody’s own image and spawning the moniker ‘social network’ for a culture that, not unlike a gentleman’s club, is very easy to get into but freakishly difficult to get out of.
And like the aforementioned gentleman’s club, it allows us to harmlessly indulge in some of the more pervasive and morally ambiguous past-times: it gives us carte blanche to stalk and perve at the lives of other users, allows us to indulge in social exposition
by the method of the news feed and crucially, it offers us a new form of social opiate through a new innovation that allows us to keep up appearances with a greater efficiency than ever before, to an audience that we perceive to always be there.
We stare at the screen blankly as the news feed informs us of events of minimal magnitude, and contribute to the on-going white noise by typing our own brand of irrelevant excrement into cyberspace.
The way we use Facebook shows that we have become a strange new breed of social creature – we have all become Neo-Narcissists, to whom everything about ourselves matters in every hour; nourished by the news feed every day, tormented yet entertained by the activities of others.
And in being Neo-Narcissists we become guilty of flagging up issues that affect our dear selves, access to which we have all created by consent found in the form of privacy issues.
We want to see everything, yet not at the expense of ourselves now, do we?
Thus the debate of how much is too much rages on from an indecisive and contradictory public voice, whilst Zuckerberg and his cohort of internet libertarians concurrently use this intellectual smoke-screen and attempt to create the world in their own image, implementing changes designed to keep personal information as open and easy as possible to access and more recently floating our pretty mugs on the stock exchange for all to own.
But you can’t cry over something that you have constructed.
We have sacrificed our privacy willingly, but it is in the nature of the Neo-Narcissist to love the self to the point of being covetous with their information; creating a circular logic that oddly enough prevents privacy from being a real issue.
Because it is precisely the narcissistic desire to protect ourselves and minimise our propensity to look stupid or vulnerable that leads us to be exceptionally selective and deceptive with the information we choose to share about ourselves – the information may be intellectual excreta, but it can be always counted upon to be only that.
That’s not to say that there is not diversity within the zeitgeist of social networking – it just so happens that turds come in varying quantities, colours and consistencies – but no turd has profundity or personality.
Every status update produced by your hundreds of friends could have been created by the same four people huddled together in a dark room sharing the same sticky old laptop computer.
And this is why your privacy doesn’t matter.
Like Adam Smith’s idea of the enlightened hand of self-interest, we have sufficiently regulated ourselves online in a brazen sea of collective narcissism to a point that everybody seems to be the same; creating an online persona that is neither true nor entirely false, aspiring to construe a flattering portrait of ourselves that ultimately results in a muted outcome.
If any nefarious agent attempted to use your information against you it would be wholly unremarkable as what could be said about you could be said about everyone, rendering any kind of online sabotage pointless.
So your privacy doesn’t matter, as you have posted nothing important to protect.