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Saturday, September 30, 2023


Big Brother now living on the Internet

Books that look forward, like George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four or Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World are often judged by their accuracy in predicting trends and other social and technological elements.

After all, the refrain ‘where are the flying cars?’ is common because of Walt Disney’s Futureland attraction, which promised by the present time, every woman would have a robotic maid to wash clothes and clean dishes and employees would commute to work via hover crafts or low-orbit shuttles.

Many of those who have attempted a novel or story about the future have made predictions, though it’s unlikely anyone from more than a handful of years in the past could have predicted the turn technology has taken in the past few years.

Social networking has become big business in recent history, evolving from MySpace, a gritty, stripped-down site known for self-promotion and risqu’eacute; self-photography, to the sleeker, more accessible Facebook and perhaps most notably, Twitter.

Orwell’s Big Brother was an aloof and untouchable governmental figure who gazed down with near omniscience into the lives of the civilians he governed.

The idea of technology invading privacy is certainly not a new one, but in today’s world, every man, woman and child with a computer has the ability to be Big Brother all on their own.

It is reasonable to fear too much investigative power and too little discretion from the government, but recent advances made in streamlining and designing social networking has made invasion from neighbors and friends a much more likely proposition.

After all, ‘Facebook stalking’ is such a common phrase it doesn’t elicit an eyebrow raise from the average person around campus.

The right to privacy is rightly and passionately defended in this country when violated by an agent of governmental authority. Yet it seems willingly and cheerfully forfeited by people living their day-to-day lives.

After all, it’s convenient to share information so easily and efficiently over time, and the expediency of social networking overcomes most folks’ reservations.

Anyone who refuses to get a Facebook account is treated, particularly within youthful circles, as some kind of stodgy, anachronistic throwback; a sort of digital Jeremiah Johnson, living in the online wilderness, stopping in at the local outpost a few times a week to trade with natives and check e-mail.

Technology isn’t bad by nature, but it isn’t inherently good either.

Like anything else, it is how technology is used when put in the hands of a population largely unconcerned with the value of privacy weighed against the convenience of being in touch everywhere, that counts.

Twitter has now taken it one step farther. Every celebrity or quasi-famous person in the world has been ordered to get a Twitter account by their record labels, parent companies and the like.

Now the general population can follow their icons and know literally, minute to minute, what they are doing and what they think, in 140 characters or less. But honestly, what is the value in reading Shaquille O’Neal or Britney Spears’ unpolished, poorly spelled thoughts? Or anyone’s for that matter?

There’s no turning back. Over the long run, there’s really no resisting either. Know anyone who still uses an eight-track player?

Ultimately, the only thing that can be done, and must be done, is to enter into each new technological era with thoughtfulness and caution.

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