By Vasiliki Theodosiou,
Let’s think of a scenario where somebody steals your phone or where you lost it on a drunk night out. Now picture the panic you will feel after it. How will you message your friends? How will you upload that brand new picture you took on Instagram? How will you even get updated for the latest info about what is happening around you? If we are to answer all the questions of the problems that are going to arise when one is left “phoneless”, this article would be over and beyond the word limit. Nevertherless, it is important to question the price we pay in order to stay online.
Everytime you have accessed an online journal to read an article that caught your eye, you have pressed “accept”. You did the exact same thing when you created that account on Facebook, even though it has been a while since you have registered and you might not even remember it. You also pressed “consent” to that latest update on your email provider policy, without even going to the trouble of having a look at that endless list of “Terms and conditions” that came with it. I did so as well. And it is absolutely fine. Isn’t it? We have to stay online. Nobody wakes up wishing to be left out of every groupchat conversation or of that cool Facebook event.
And if it has occurred to you that you have had access to all those online services and to all those social media providers for free, you are wrong. You have been “paying” all along, putting your data and your details out there and also creating the content that those providers need in order to remain at the top of the financial pyramid. Besides, what would Facebook look like without its users? A blank space would most probably be an accurate answer.
The purpose of this article is not to encourage everyone to live in a cave and refrain from any activity that involves technology such as using a smartphone. It aims to simply put out there the concern about people’s awareness of the multitude of personal information that is shared online. Maybe sometimes it is actually worth to double check before agreeing to the “Terms and Conditions” section. People say that you should never sign a contract without having read it first. Ironically enough, the very same people press “accept” without even thinking about it. It is not like Big Brother is out there watching you, but it is as if there are individuals out there who are highly skilled and technologically wise and at the same time do not have the most innocent intentions either. Yes, you uploaded that video of a very personal moment as a story on your Instagram account thinking that nobody will be able to view it after 24 hours, but you can never know if one of your followers who viewed it, hasn’t decided to record it and post it somewhere else making your life difficult and complicated, all because of a moment of negligence.
It is not like you have to see enemies everywhere even when there are none; but it is not that bad, either, to put a bit more thought on what you upload and what you share with the world, which, now that we mention it, is not even the real world. Scientists sometimes call it a “bubble” because your online world is a world exclusively made for you and the preferences that you have expressed online. You will see articles, videos, pictures of your favourite artists, but never from an artist who you hate. You will see advertisements for that computer that you wanted to buy, but never for new furniture because you had never had the need to get some. You will also see people expressing the same political views as you, but you will never see an article supporting that political party of which you are not particularly fond of. You will access an online culture that is close to your very own culture, wishes and beliefs. A “world” tailor-made for you and thus, a world that holds some parts of the truth, maybe the ones you wish to see, and not the whole truth. Maybe this sounds as a completely unrelated issue to the privacy discussion, but the thing is that if it weren’t for your consent to provide your details, this ideal world wouldn’t be there for you. You would get advertisements of things you haven’t got the slightest interest in and opinions that are not even close to what you are used to listening. Someone might argue that the internet is a multicultural place where all opinions are included and everything is equal but taking into consideration all those algorithms that promote to you the content that you want to see, this might not be the case. It is just an assumption, it is just a thought. But it might be worth putting it out there, in the online world and whether that world is equal and ideal or discriminating and problematic, it is up to you to decide.