Technology overload

Last night, as I walked home from work, I noticed for the first time a small memorial garden outside one of the tower blocks near my flat. Having walked past it many times before without ever registering its existence in my conscious mind I was surprised, especially in light of all the useless information my brain does hold onto each day, the majority of which I’m ashamed to admit is acquired through social media.

When I got home I caught the end of a feature on The One Show about the effects of the digital revolution on the human brain. In it, it was claimed our brains are now so re-wired by all the digital technology we consume that, on average, we wake three times a night because of the sheer over-stimulation of it all. After watching this programme did I, therefore, remove my mobile phone from the bedroom and retire early to bed with a cup of cocoa and a good book? Did I heck. I went to bed too late, checking my Facebook right before switching off the light. Then, five minutes after closing my eyes, I opened them again to make some notes about a story idea on my iPhone’s notepad. And again five minutes after that to check for an email response from a friend and add an action to the To Do list. No wonder I slept fitfully and had the strangest dream about a cannibalistic house…

It’s scary to think we’re so habitually ‘plugged in’ to technology that we don’t see things like beautifully-kept gardens even though we walk past them every single day. There’s too much buzz, too many distractions, our choices are no longer our own and, as a result, our concentration levels ‘in the real world’ plummet. I find that all the time with my writing. Whereas once I would think of a story, sit down and write that story, now I think of ten stories and feel so paralysed by choice I struggle to write any of them. That may or may not be down to my addiction to technology, but it probably doesn’t help.

Maybe it’s time to banish the phone from the bedroom and start using an alarm clock. In the words of Mister Tesco, every little helps…

Privacy in a world of self-publicity – does it exist?

Today I’d like to talk about privacy. In case you haven’t seen the latest message that’s spreading like wildfire across Facebook statuses the world over, I shall post it in full below to get you up to speed:

Dear friends: I want to stay PRIVATELY connected with you. I post shots of my family and friends that I’d prefer strangers not have access to. With recent changes in FB, the “public” can now see activities on ANY wall. This happens when our friends hit “like” or “comment” ~ automatically, their friends see our posts too. Unfortunately, we can not change this setting by ourselves because Facebook has configured it this way.

 PLEASE place your mouse over my name above (DO NOT CLICK), a window will appear, now move the mouse on “FRIENDS” (also without clicking), then down to “Settings”, click here and a list will appear. REMOVE the CHECK on “COMMENTS & LIKE” and also “PHOTOS”. By doing this, my activity among my friends and family will remain private.

Now, copy and paste this on your wall. Once I see this posted on your page I will do the same. Thanks!

In response to this message I today felt moved to update my own Facebook status as follows:

Dear friends who want to stay PRIVATELY connected to me, I’m interested to know what it is exactly that you think the big bad “public” are likely to do with those pictures of your sister in her Christmas jumper? Sell them to the online Christmas porn industry so Rudolph can get his kicks over in Lapland? If you think Facebook (which is, incidentally, a PUBLIC forum) is so evil kindly stop cluttering up my timeline with paranoid privacy status updates and revert to more traditional forms of communication such as email and telephone – and keep your treasured personal pictures in a photo album on your shelf. Thanks!

Perhaps you’ll think my response flippant, and perhaps it is, but if a prospective employer was shallow enough not to hire me because of a few pictures of me wearing silly hats and drinking alcohol I’m not sure I’d want to work for them anyway. Also, quite frankly, if they’ve got time on their hands to search through all the pictures of me on Facebook with the sole purpose of finding something incriminating I’d not only say good luck to them, but would also seriously call into question their business practice and resource allocation.

What irks me is that in this age of self-publicity, where every other person has a Facebook account through which they delight in making people jealous about their holidays and other (ironically rather banal to a complete stranger) happenings in their lives (please know I don’t exclude myself from this group of individuals – quite the opposite), those very same people are so ludicrously sensitive about having their information shared. Admittedly they may not want the whole world to see their holiday snaps, but it’s the fact they so egotistically think the world will care in the first place that’s so ridiculous. There is no privacy anymore – welcome to the digital age, wake up and smell the tweetable, shareable coffee!

It’s true that sometimes bad things do happen to people’s information – accounts get hacked, photos get posted on porn sites, people’s reputations are sullied through no fault of their own. But it’s important not to listen to the scaremongers and get a sense of proportion. These things don’t happen all the time. Employers do not have time to trawl through all their employees’ personal photos in search of one that will give them a reason to send them packing with their P45. Providing there aren’t photos of you shooting up heroin in a dingy bedsit it’s highly doubtful you’ll get fired for a few pictures of you having a good time.

What is it people are so frightened of really? Losing control? Of their photos, their reputations, their minds? Personally – and this may well come back to bite me in the proverbial arse – I think this privacy nonsense has gone too far. If you’re that terrified of seeing your face staring back at you from OneHotMomma.com then it may be best to remove yourself from the world of social media altogether. Perhaps you’re just not cut out for involvement in the digital world. Cut your losses and be free (and safe)!

But if you’re a sane, rational being who is relatively careful with what information they share on the worldwide web, is it really the end of the world if the world can see?

333143_10151111610085057_2115337391_o

Having written this post I did a quick search through my own Facebook photos to try and find one that was suitably incriminating – this is what I came up with. It’s a picture of me and a friend (who I’m pretty sure will be reading this!)’s boyfriend, taken on new year’s eve in 2011. I’ll admit it looks somewhat dodgy, but I refuse to believe my professional integrity would be called into question on the basis of what is clearly a silly picture taken at a party. OBVIOUSLY in real life I don’t walk around in a pink wig pushing my boobs in the face of bespectacled shellsuit-wearing men. OBVIOUSLY I was just HAVING FUN. Last I checked this wasn’t a crime. Or am I not moving fast enough with the times?