In an age characterised by the preponderance of social media, our generation is perhaps the guinea pig of the social craze that consists of universal disclosure of our every move. To our parents, this public displaying of often sensitive information, is often unnerving, bringing in to play issues such as those of safety, but also fundamental moral principles such as that of civil liberties and right to privacy, which are commonly perceived as being directly undermined by social networking sites.
Facebook and Twitter encourage us to constantly update our latest thoughts, feelings, actions, and locations. Facebook’s new and compulsory ‘Timeline’ setting literally charts our lives on a webpage, for all to see. Inevitably, peer pressures compel many of us to try in vain to make our lives often appear somehow more interesting. Did Mark Zuckerberg really comprehend just how far self-conscious teens would go, and the extent of the time they would spend (latest figures suggest the average teenager spends upwards of 25 hours a week on the site), trying to somehow enhance their public image?
But what is the point of it all? Why are we spending so much of our teenage years trying to ‘improve’ how we as individuals appear to our peers? Surely it’s unfair how we should feel the constant urge to try and boost our profile, and make ourselves ‘more interesting’? What characterises a popular persons Facebook profile anyway, and why?
Moral consternation aside, there is a more literal, and just as harmful side to this social media- centric society we grow up in: its ability to graphically portray our every misdemeanour, particularly if you’re rich… Just ask Prince Harry.
Over the past week, the ‘story’ of this certain Prince’s fecklessness, and more precisely, the (literal) laying bare of his such misdemeanours, have featured prominently in our nations media. Hapless Harry’s Vegas exploits were of course only made available in the public domain by virtue of the web, where the incriminating pictures were originally circulated.
Yes, it must be admitted, that in this particular case it was not social media sites that explicitly ensured an awkward hangover for our heir to the throne. It was instead one of his own party who took, and then sold the image in order to make a quick buck.
Nonetheless, it was social networking sites such as Twitter, which foster our obsession with celebrity, that facilitated the story in spreading so swiftly across the Atlantic, via all things Prince Harry trending. Similarly, sites such as Twitter and Facebook may also be sited as directly responsible for the equally unpleasant spreading of X Factor judge’s Tulisa’s sex tape hell.
So, with our every overindulgence or past demons threatened to be exposed at the click of a mouse, one may be forgiven for often resenting the power of both the internet and social media. Yes, the average young man’s drunken hotel room antics would not usually make headlines, but the precedent of unwelcome publication of personal embarrassments, often outside of our control, is one that many of us must prepare to face. Social media it would seem, whilst being a tool that can serve to bring us together, can also be used as a callous weapon to shame.
Indeed, they can often threaten to challenge democratic values such as that of a right to personal privacy. Any move however, to limit its dominance and one’s right to free press and freedom of expression, may threaten to be just as damaging to our core democratic values. The choice faced may be simplistically broken down: should we employ some degree of censorship, or if not, surely we risk the laying bare of your every move and mistake?