Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are excellent mediums for communicating with each other and broadcasting important messages. Considering the profit-driven nature of our economy, it is understandable to wonder how these sites are free of charge for users. The short answer here is advertisements. In fact, the United States Senate just repealed the laws which gave online consumers privacy – making it easier for companies to sell and purchase our information. But there is a more insidious purpose fulfilled through these forums: surveillance.
The Right to Privacy and Potential Terrorists
For women and non-whites, there has never been a right to privacy. Historically, these bodies have always been open to violation by the patriarchal, white supremacist State. For the sake of simplicity, however, this blog will focus on the right to privacy during the War on Terror.
Thanks to the September 11th terrorist attacks, everyone is a potential terrorist (especially if you are dark-skinned with a head wrap). We allow our e-mails to be read and our phone calls to be wire-tapped in the name of national security. We remove our shoes and allow cavity searches at the airport in the name of national security.
The right to privacy has been sacrificed for an illusion of safety.
Once upon a time, secrets were jotted down in a diary and tucked beneath our mattress. Nowadays, with the proliferation of technology and the collapse of public and private domains, people are encouraged to ‘share’ their feelings with masses of people. By feeding off a shallow narcissism, personal information is easily extracted. Visibility into the thoughts and actions of the public solidifies social media as a surveillance mechanism.
Consider the fact that whenever someone does not have a social media account, they are suspicious. After all: even ISIS uses social media! Civil liberties have now degenerated to a point where an unwillingness to sacrifice the right to privacy makes us a potential terrorist.
Virtual Interrogation Rooms
The ‘news feed’ on social media is constantly updating. We become involved in a pathetic competition to stay relevant in the minds of friends and followers by over-contributing. A maladaptive habit then arises where many people insist on reporting and recording every movement.
The question is: who are we really talking to? The incessant updates suggests we are trying to prove our case to someone. The very structure of social media mirrors that of a criminal investigation. It seems as if we are responding to a panel of imaginary police officers inquiring as to our whereabouts. Social media forums are virtual interrogation rooms where we divulge our alibis to cyberspace detectives. Through GPS, our exact location is determined; and all of our statuses are stamped with the date and time – as if they are being scanned into an evidence log. Our profile picture is simply a mugshot for identification purposes.