Fighting a Losing Battle for Privacy

Over the years, I’ve written about my overall hate for Facebook and their lack of concern for their users’ privacy (to put it nicely). Every time they make changes without telling people, I feel responsible as a tech-savvy person to try to let my friends and family know to make sure they are aware and can make the necessary changes.

Overall, social media just feels like an endless pursuit of no concrete goal. It sells itself as an easy way to “stay connected” with more people than you possibly could in real life, help you reconnect with old friends/flames, and make new “connections” with people of similar interests.

While Facebook gets the majority of my scorn, I generally feel the same way with other mediums such as Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, which has definitely shifted over the years from an interesting and engaging platform to a wasteland of uneducated political and social commentary. I believe one of the reasons it has been failing recently is the very thing that made it great in the beginning: it’s an open platform where anyone can say whatever they want, and you can generally “follow” whoever you want as well.

What Are We Even Doing?

As I notice people with much higher social profiles and influence than myself take significant steps to remove or rejoin various social networking services with great fanfare, I can’t help but think how ridiculous it all is, but especially the part about making a grandiose announcement, which mostly shows how self-important we think we are that anyone would even care.

Then again, maybe people do care and want to know when people are entering and exiting these spaces. It just seems to shine a brighter light on the absurdity of what we’re all doing, and little we understand about why we’re doing it.

I’m pretty sure I’m in the majority of people who don’t care what you (or anyone else) ate for lunch today. And yet, there’s an entire platform devoted to sharing selfies and other inane photos that can only be described as totally self-indulgent. We’ve not only become addicted to over-sharing, but to the tiny dopamine rewards in our brains for getting likes and comments.

It’s a crazy world we live in now, both with how much information is available to consume and how quickly it disappears. I feel the anxiety and fear people have of missing out on something important, but I worry about the lasting effects both individually and globally on so many of us living our lives vicariously through our phones. And it will only continue as virtual reality becomes more accessible and, well, realistic.

The question embedded deep inside all of this talk about digital connections is, where has our privacy gone? In America, our government has been working hard for years to remove our privacy rights and restrict our freedoms in the name of safety as we fight an indefinite and indefinable war against global terrorism against a faceless enemy.

No Easy Solution

I have been researching ways to protect myself that I can also share with my friends and family, and the reality is that right now there is no easy way. Sure, I could figure out how to setup my own VPN, but it’s not exactly something I can walk someone else through who is not technically-minded. But, like everything, the biggest hurdle is the inevitable tradeoff between convenience and privacy. I’ve been trying to straddle that fence for many years and have never found a comfortable balance in an ever-changing ecosystem of the Internet.

Even as someone who has invested a significant amount of time and other resources into learning how to create and maintain websites, I feel a strong urge to walk away completely and disconnect from everything. But I also realize that because of what I know, I have an even greater responsibility to help those around me keep themselves and their loved ones safe from things such as identify theft, hacking, and other fraud. There are just so many proverbial holes to be filled and the dam is breaking faster than ever.

Where To Go From Here

At this point, I have tried to step as far away as I can from social media, locking down my privacy controls and limiting notifications as much as possible. I’ve also limited my connections to people I know, and follow fewer people to lower the amount of noise capable of distracting me from my everyday life. Everyone has to find their own balance, and while I fear many have fallen over the edge, I do think a breaking point has to be around the corner for people to start re-engaging into their real lives. I truly hope that as the internet matures, we do as well and find meaningful ways to use it for everyone’s benefit instead of just a few.

[These are just some of my thoughts on the issue of privacy. I’m sure my opinions will change in the future and I’ll continue to process both the incoming information and my feelings and reactions to them. If you have any thoughts of agreement or disagreement, I’d be happy to read them.]

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