Written and media by Maggie Schoepke.
The issue of privacy is certainly something that instills a sense of fear in us—especially the older generation. Since so much of the internet is public and out of our control, it is hard to know when or if human rights are being violated. Many issues have arisen from this concern over the past couple of years, and recently there has been unease at the level of government involvement in such personal affairs. There have been email scandals, unauthorized social media studies, and much, much more. In turn, many of these legal issues have led a great deal of people away from the internet and all that it does have to offer.
While many are fighting and facing the legal issues involved in this matter, others have chosen to take precautions of their own in order to ultimately ensure identity protection. Some of these steps have included, but are not limited to adopting pen names, securing privacy settings, and using discernment when sharing online. As a member of an online anime community, I have encountered my share of individuals taking these precautions. Quite a deal of those that I’ve interacted with use avatars or icons in place of profile pictures. According to one online friend, this ensures a greater level of control in internet relationships.
While actions of this sort have their place, one begins to beg the question, why post if you are going to hide? My friend’s response to this was that she thought it was important to be transparent online (with discernment of course), but that the world doesn’t always need to put a name or a face to that experience. Viewing internet privacy that way makes a lot of sense. I think things such as the use of usernames and profiles also depend on what platform one is working off of. Personally, I use my real name and face on media such as Twitter and Instagram, because I want ownership of the images and writings I choose to release to the world. When it comes to chat rooms or more personal online-interactions though, I tend to settle for a more discreet profile.
As previously mentioned, the concern for internet privacy seems to be more of a generational thing than anything else. While young people have taken steps to ensure their safety, many are bolder and more willing to put themselves out there than the individuals who have raised them. I think the difference in these approaches to online interactions lies in the fact that technology is still something that is very foreign and unfamiliar to the older generation. In order for both age groups to see more eye to eye on this issue, there has to be some degree of education from both sides of the issue. One way to accomplish this is through a method called “reverse mentoring“—a process by which an older and younger individual are paired for the purpose of gaining further insight on individual techniques and practices.
Whether you’re Generation X or Generation Y, you can pursue matters of internet privacy with varying levels of precaution. While there are certainly dangers in technology, there are also great rewards, and I think we have to remind ourselves of both every time we confront a device. As society grows, so the internet will continue to advance. It ultimate is my hope that humanity will continue to find its place with technology, and policies of privacy will bring us further freedom.