By Clement Amolo
It’s so exciting to live in the 21st Century. So much is going on at the same time you don’t know which to turn to first. Civilization is in its grand prime. People have become more liberal and less and less conservative. The constant demand for ‘updates’ has turned many of us into either fulltime newsmakers or news-consumers. Everyone has a story to tell, a photo or a video to share about an ongoing party, graduation or a funeral ceremony.
Everyone wants to be a sort of a celebrity, the subject (or at least the object) of a Breaking News. Many people, especially the youth, eagerly want to tell the world about themselves. Nobody wants to be left out. Being offline for a whole week might create the impression your life is dull, boring, with nothing going on and so no story worth sharing.
If indeed you have nothing going on, you simply hatch a make-believe story to keep the “likes” and “positive comments” coming. Stiff competition for attention in the social media is spurring creativity and strong imagination.
This is a modern culture nobody can easily escape. Information has become one of the best-selling commodities, consumed faster than it is produced. We are forever on the lookout for what is trending online. News, useful or not, don’t stay long on the shelves. Communication has been taken to a much higher level. It’s all good. It’s fun.
However, how much exposure is normal, or dignifying? Are we to post anything we think of, or share any video we shoot, without considering what exactly we give away to the public? Is there a boundary – rather, should there be a boundary? What are you giving away and what are you getting in return?
There is always something about us we would rather keep private. In real life, most people are reserved and hardly open up to strangers too soon. However, when it gets to social media, we comfortably and readily reveal our inner selves to new friends and total strangers: the need to be relevant or a celebrity over-rides privacy considerations.
Some might argue the modern technology has evolved man into an open-minded being, to the point he needs no privacy anymore; privacy has lost its grand meaning and there’s nothing to hide. Pull up the curtains and let the world see your bedroom. Take off everything and pose for a photo. There is no harm in laying it bear. We are advanced.
Really? Maybe not yet. As one witty observer once mused, ‘human race has improved everything except human race’. In terms of behavior, human beings are still the same creatures who lived 3,000 years back. To a large extent, man has the same fears, expectations, doubts, and beliefs our ancestors harbored.
We may consider ourselves liberal, but we are still vulnerable to jealousy, inferiority complex feelings… we can still be hurt emotionally and psychologically by the posts we read online. What we post, and what is posted for our consumption, are not that harmless in the long run. Just as our exaggerated lifestyles make others feel inadequate, so do their even more exaggerated posts make us feel less worthy.
So we should be concerned about the things we post on our social sites. Maybe we want to boost our self-esteem, yes, but could we be lowering our dignity in the process? Forgetting for a while our own desire to be heard out there, we need to ask before posting: Are our make-believe posts meant to uplift our fans or break them down with envy? Are we making somebody somewhere feel inferior by the ‘high-life’ we live on our Facebook timelines, going by the lavish parties, expensive flights around the globe and exotic dresses we share online?
It’s not uncommon to hear a lady tell the world about her “handsome, kind, intelligent, romantic and filthy-rich boyfriend.” In the old days, the world would not be interested in your family affairs, but it seems now the whole world ought to know about the surprise birthday party your father threw your way yesterday.
It’s now ‘normal’ to universalize that seaside photo of you kissing that gorgeous girlfriend, captioned: “Thank you, my sweetheart. I love you as always. You are trustworthy.” The post soon goes viral, with thousands of ‘likes’ and ‘comments’. That is satisfying, isn’t it? It’s so soothing to imagine your ‘haters’ feeling sad somewhere upon seeing the photo and the ‘likes’.
But, having gone that far, what shall you tell your online friends if, unfortunately, you later break up with that trustworthy lover? Will you publicly have to withdraw the marvelous adverbs (in their superlative forms) you bestowed on her, or will you suddenly go offline for months?
This is one reason we need to think twice each time we are to go public with our personal affairs. While we have to be open about some of our details, we need to think about such likely scenarios so that we mark the limit when it comes to exposing our lives on social media. What we give away might return to haunt us one day, just when we thought it was consumed and disposed of.
A couple, both famous public figures or celebrities, may deliver a bouncing baby boy. Right from birth, they started a Facebook page and Twitter account for the infant, where they update the public about his affairs and development: how much weight he has gained this week, which diaper brand he is using, which perfume, where his toys are bought and so forth.
The day by day (sometimes hour by hour) updates are well-detailed for information-consumers to greedily gulp down. The kid’s nice photos are allover the social media. While there is fun and joy in raising a kid, and more joy in sharing that joy with others, something is certainly wrong with this couple. In this case, the child’s right to privacy has been ignored as he grows up believing he is an idol. The parents have gone overboard.
And it’s not all about being dignified. Sometimes the information we give might get into the wrong hands and be used against us. You could have given more than the basic details cybercriminals require about you to hack your accounts and get other vital information you have stored online. Online security can be enhanced by the sites but at the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide what to risk for the sake socializing. Your online security is in your hands. Watch what those hands type.
It’s indeed the era of information and constant communication. Man is, after all, a social being. Technology has aided and fast-changed the way we relate, but it’s clear it has not yet eroded our basic perceptions. While you should not stay away from social media (that could be the loneliest kind of isolation now, by the way), you need to draw a line. It’s possible to have all the reasonable fun you want online without having to let the world know it’s a candle-lit dinner tonight with your partner at Hilton Hotel, it’s a red wine, it’s a white rose he bring…