In an age where everyone wants to be a celebrity on some level, everyone believes everyone else also wants to be a celebrity, in turn creating a generation of paparazzi. You don't need the NSA to track your every move, someone’s already doing that for you—and you probably know them.
This has likely happened to you: You go to an event or a party, say what up to some people you know, grab a drink, try to have a good time, and throughout the course of the night, as you check your phone—because even though you’re somewhere you’ve still got strong FOMO—you notice that one of your acquaintances has announced your whereabouts to the Twitterverse. It usually reads something to the effect of: “@YourBoy: YO! Always good running into @You. #[enter free liquor purveyor/free show provider here]. Or, there are the people who, while speaking to you, tweet quotes from your conversation in real time without warning, as if they’re livetweeting your friendship. As if your lives are only fodder for an insatiable stream of data.
That happened to me most memorably two years ago. I was leaving work and planned on heading home. Before I left the office, a friend asked what I was doing later that night and I told them as much. I was exhausted after having been out for the past couple of nights and really had my sights on going home. But you know what happens when you get that inquisitive text asking where you’re at, before informing you of a much better situation happening that you would be a fool to miss: You go.
So I went. I figured I’d stop in for a quick drink, dap up a few people, and bounce. Of course, 2 a.m. rolls around, I’m on, maybe, my eighth whiskey, and me and my boy are having one of those pseudo-philosophical conversations you have when you’re so drunk your words come out all smushed together like melted candy bars. When I wake up the next morning and check my phone, I see a text from my friend telling me that if I didn’t want to hang out I could have just said so, with a link to a tweet my boy posted that included a quote I didn’t remember saying and a hashtag that revealed our location.
It feels presumptuous to believe people need to check with you before writing something on their Twitter or Facebook account. But is it? Shouldn’t you control how your image is used in other mediums?
Two thoughts came to mind after reading that text: 1) True, and 2) Why the fuck didn’t my boy tell me he was going to quote me saying some drunk shit on Twitter. He was drunk, sure, and the quote was admittedly funny, but if he had asked me beforehand if he could tweet that I would have said, Nah, chill. This is not a problem at all for a majority of people. They relish their social media profile growing with each mention or @ reply. The more the merrier. Others, however, would rather be in full control of their social media identity. But who’s right?
It feels presumptuous to believe people need to check with you before writing something on their Twitter or Facebook account. But is it? Shouldn’t you control how your image is used in other mediums? And in a society where the services and gadgets we use most are increasingly developed to be on at all times, endlessly streaming and collecting data, how much longer can people expect to maintain privacy and control of ourselves?
Earlier this year members of Congress sent a letter to Google CEO and co-founder Larry Page with a number of questions regarding privacy issues dealing with the company’s recently announced Google Glass. The glasses feature a built-in camera and computer that can take photos, give you directions, send messages and livestream anything you’re looking at. It’s the first real look into the future of wearable technology and all that that entails. But not everyone is ready to make that quantum leap. Some members of Congress worried how people would know when they’re being recorded and if the glasses would be able to run facial recognition software. At a conference in May, Google shot down a number of those worries, saying that privacy was a main concern and that “You'll know when someone with Glass is paying attention to you. If you're looking at Glass, you're looking up.”
That wasn’t good enough for The 5 Point Café, a Seattle bar that holds the distinction of being the first to ban Google Glass. Owner Dave Meinert said he has no problem with the glasses, but doesn’t want them worn inside his establishment. “You have to understand the culture of The 5 Point which is a sometimes seedy, maybe notorious place and I think people want to go there and be not known,” Meinert told MyNorthwest.com. “Part of this is a joke, to be funny on Facebook and get a reaction, but part of it is serious because we don’t let people film other people or take photos unwanted of other people in the bar because it’s kind of a private place people go.”
While you can ban high-tech glasses that are currently more novelty than necessity, it’s harder to ban phones from bars and parties. Or on trains and planes, for that matter. There are Tumblrs dedicated to photos snapped of people asleep on subways and other forms of public transportation. All of them taken and posted without permission. The amount of personal broadcasting is only going to increase. Vine is full of videos of people doing ridiculous things without any knowledge that they’re being recorded. The same goes for Instagram. It’s not only new events, either. The Throwback Thursday trend that’s so prevalent on Twitter and Instagram sees a number of photos pulled from the archives, some of which feature people who wish it never got saved to an external hard drive.
The boundaries of personal space are increasingly crumbling, if not all together destroyed. With everyone sharing a genuine fear of missing out, the masses will ensure that you, too, are not only there, but apart of it—whatever it is—whether you like it or not.
Or, you could always get off Twitter.