Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Right to Privacy in a Digital World

Recently, Michael Buble caused a lot of uproar about a photo he posted on Instagram. People are angry about it being sexist, saying it is body shaming and slut shaming and so on. Honestly, I don't feel like getting into that debate, since we're making assumptions about how someone would feel or react based on our own feelings and reactions. There are people who would be uncomfortable with his comments and others who would be flattered. Disgusting comments like, "well, if she was dressed like that, she obviously wants you to think about her ass" belong in the 1950's, so it's not worth even trying to converse with someone who makes them.

On the other hand, something about the photo and situation really bothered me personally. We can't control the fact that photos and videos are everywhere now. We all probably get accidentally captured in them all the time. However, in this case, a girl had no idea she was being photographed, definitely didn't know she'd be all over the internet, and certainly wasn't expecting to be discussed. Maybe she would be flattered. That's not the point, though. If he had something negative about her not, to some people, complimentary, people would be angrier, but that's also not the point. What is the point is that we have taken our entitlement too far.

Most people don't mind social media and attention. In fact, America is a disturbingly narcissistic country. Selfies are a part of daily life. Lots of people love to look at themselves and make sure everyone they've ever spoken to also looks at them. Repeatedly. I mean, you would think the one selfie would be pretty much good enough for a period of time until another was needed, but apparently not. Taking twenty in a row seems excessive to me, but hey, I don't like photos. I love taking pictures of places. I can understand taking photos with loved ones, since you want them to remember later of that moment or that person. But I do struggle to understand why Facebook feeds are usually just countless duck-faced closeups.

The thing about this story with Michael Buble, though, is that it draws attention to something else. People seem incapable of understanding or empathizing with people who think differently. The truth is that not everyone needs to take endless photos of themselves. Some people don't like to take pictures. Ignoring the fact that the girl in the picture could possibly have been in a bad situation in the past and perhaps doesn't want her picture plastered over the internet, maybe she also just would feel uncomfortable. It's simply overstepping bounds, because she didn't agree to be photographed and certainly not have her body shared all over Instagram. Two seconds. It would have taken two seconds to ask permission. (What if she was actually underage? We don't know and she could have been 15-years-old. Doesn't that cross a legal line, too?)

Why has "it doesn't bother me" become an acceptable justification for behavior that is selfish and inconsiderate? Just because it doesn't upset one person doesn't mean that you speak for all of humanity, correct? No, that's not correct and it's incredibly frustrating. Yes, a huge percentage of people use Facebook and other forms of social media, but it's not 100%. Some people don't. I know I don't generally use it. I don't like it. I suppose having a blog is also narcissistic in many ways, but it's a little less invasive. To me, of course. Maybe for others it's awful. I wouldn't post someone's information here without talking to them, if it wasn't already online, or if I wasn't a paying customer, because what right would I have? And maybe even by mentioning this story, I have invaded this girl's privacy even more.

The point is that we need to consider that just because we feel one way, it doesn't mean everyone else does. In a digital world, we act fast and often that rashness can lead to serious consequences. It can be taken down, sure, but until we remember that the way we behave online is still a reflection of who we are, we won't really get anywhere. We are also not entitled to whatever we want just because we want it. Young people have always been accused of this, but they are cognitively just beginning to realize the world doesn't literally exist for their entertainment. When grown adults behave like this, though, it's embarrassing for humanity. We should know better and we definitely should know that we are not the only person who matters. Just some food for thought.

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