Anti-social media

Piaras has posted a great blog which details a fresh debate that social media must face; privacy.

Extremely popular sites like Bebo are fitting in perfectly with the snap-happy culture that digital and picture phones have created. While a well placed and adequately equiped bystander is a great tool of Citizen journalism in newsworthy situations on an actual social level they do become mini-paparrazi. People taking pictures of you when you let your hair down is nothing new, and it is never generally a problem but when those pictures are going to be shared with a potentially massive audience, often with people you don’t know, is it really no worse than before? How many pictures do you or your friends have of you that you’d consider funny, that feature you in a drunken-state or that highlight some bizarre obsession you have with traffic signs? Now, how many of these would you like to make available to your current or potential employers to view?

Besides the privacy implications of sites like Bebo there is also a potential for so-called social media to undermine traditional social values without really replacing them. Traditionally stories and anecdotes are often suplimented by the odd photograph but this is changing. Nowadays most modern mobile phones come with multi-megapixel digital cameras, some with built in flashes and movie and audio record capabilities. Hooking these devices to a PC is simple and by their nature camera phones allow people to take more pictures as there are no “consumables” such as film. All this adds up to the fact thats someone with a decent phone could film and/or photograph you and have the files online minutes after they got home. Piaras is right, the privacy infringements are certainly an issue that needs to be addressed but it has no obvious and workable solution to me at the moment.

The social implications, however, mean that there may be less and less to chat about, remember or discuss; why bother when we can just watch it over online if we need reminding or clarification? Is the growing trend of constant visual documentation going to be the death-knell of the anecdote?
God forbid we ever see a day when you ask a friend “how was your night?” and they respond with a URL.

One Comment

  1. [...] Surprisingly enough there wasn’t much of a fuss made last week when the Irish Minister for Justice, Michael MacDowell said that he wants our police force to carry cameras to take photographs of suspects (subscription required), especially in light of other discussions centering around peoples images been taken and used without their permission online. (Here, here, here, here, here and here.) [...]

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