I was sitting in Van Pelt the other day when I noticed the girl in front of me procrastinating on Facebook, looking at photo albums. Pretty normal and I usually wouldn't give it a second thought, except she was looking at pictures of me in a friend's photo album.
I'm not friends with her - she was a complete stranger - but suddenly I realized that she knew a lot about me. Had I introduced myself then, she would have had preconceived notions about me.
Those pictures were from a Habitat for Humanity build, so she'd probably falsely assume that I was a good person. But she could have just as easily seen shots of me drunkenly making out with an ugly girl.
If I had shame, this could be very embarrassing. And then Ms. Facebook would have a vastly different first impression of me.
Sure, I could 'detag' them, but that doesn't, by any means, delete them. We live in an age in which everyone has a camera - often attached to your phone - and the costs for publishing and accessing photos have dropped to zero.
Privacy has changed. The idea that an action witnessed only by a handful of people would remain private to that group is no longer given. Describing the recent protests in Tibet, The Economist recently wrote: "In the age of the mobile phone and Internet, photographic evidence soon circles the globe." If communist China can't suppress and hide photos, what hope do I have?
Digitized photography and the Internet are the death of privacy as we understand it and the birth of a truly public society. Our generation is the first to cope with the necessary assumption that our every action seen by another may in turn be seen by all of our peers.
And I think this is good news.
I guess I should pause now to rip up my ACLU membership card.
Even at the time of my most far-flung liberal views, I wondered about the right to privacy. Granted, I don't want the government snooping into my stuff - I don't think anyone wants the same chuckleheads who brought us Katrina relief to keep tabs on our actions - but I do want society to keep an eye on me and everyone else for that matter.
Whereas government has formal powers over the citizenry, society does not. Rather, it's merely the intangible judgment of our peers and fear of their critical eyes that we face. Should this framework remain, the death of privacy deserves hearty welcome, not mourning.
We are more apt to indulge our baser desires in private and far less likely to transgress against society's mores in public. In general, even the terrible bastard doesn't beat his kids in front of the neighbors.
Even the racist schmuck keeps her bigoted opinions silent around others.
As our private lives are ever increasingly made public, we'll consider more and more the ramifications of our actions. The world has become much smaller, and just like in any small town, everyone's nose will be in everyone's business.
We're the first generation to face this monumental shift in society. But we're not just witnesses: We're publishing our private lives away on Facebook and Myspace. We are causing this shift. We'll see the first politician undone by an inside joke posted on a friend's wall.
And it might be me - I've certainly made enough off-color remarks. On Facebook you can find pictures of me in a girl's shirt, urinating in public and drinking in a variety of settings.
I am more than willing to accept the consequences of my documented actions. Truthfully, I have no choice.
Some students react by deactivating their Facebook accounts, others by toying with their privacy settings.
I could do all that, but those pictures of me building houses in Appalachia will still be there.
We can no longer hide our pasts from the glaring eye of society - our sins will be broadcast for all to see. As Camus wrote: "Don't wait for the Last Judgment. It takes place every day."
Jim Saksa is a College senior from Toms River, N.J. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. You, Sir, are an Idiot appears on Mondays.Comments powered by Disqus
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