Thursday, June 10, 2010

Tag! You're It!

Friends, I am a fan of the Facebook. We know this. I could waste hours chatting with friends, tending my farm on Farmville, playing games. I often wonder how we functioned without the ability to write on each other's walls for so many centuries.

Recently, though, I've kind of felt a certain level of discomfort with the lack of privacy Facebook presents. Now, I'm not complaining about the ever-changing security and privacy settings the company has. Instead, I'm talking about the power we have to violate the privacy of our friends without even batting an eye. We can post secrets, create groups, and put embarrassing photos up with the click of a button.

I woke up this morning to an email from my best friend with the subject line, "OMG!" It turns out that during the night, a Facebook friend had posted a group picture that included me -- a picture in which I look dreadful, a picture I would have burned if I had a physical copy. I'm not a particularly vain person, but I also hate the idea of pictures that I'm not comfortable with how I look being out there for the world to see -- that my best friend in Ohio was able to see the picture before I did and realizing that any of my friends would be able to see the picture since I had been "tagged". My students would be able to see it! My co-workers!! I have to admit that part of me was really angry that this picture had been put out to the world without my permission. I guess you could argue that I gave my consent by posing for the picture. But what if I hadn't posed? I confessed to my friend that I felt a little violated that the picture was out there without me knowing it. Luckily, she told me how to untag myself, but many mutual friends (and my sister) are tagged in the picture, so there's still tons of access for people I know to see this picture.

The Internet has been a real blessing in our society. We have access to so much information, and I truly believe deep down that this access will eventually make us a little bit smarter. The problem becomes the many pitfalls that the Internet poses. It becomes important for us to make some choices about what we put out there. Before I post a status update on Facebook, I think long and hard about what I'll say. I censor myself as carefully as I can. I'm not perfect. I've certainly posted things that I've regretted later (including a really unfortunate joke about being bi-polar that offended FB friends dealing with that disorder). When I post pictures, it's typically stuff from school plays and the kids know that the pictures will be posted so they can have access to them and their permission is clearly implied. (I should note I also try to be careful not to post pictures that would make the kids look bad or embarrass them.)

In the end, it all comes down the the wise words of Uncle Ben -- with great power comes great responsibility. The Internet gives us tremendous power. We just have to be responsible in how we use it.


NICKI said...

I recently heard a new story in which the announcer searched facebook for "my new cell number" and got several hits that were not friends. They then called the numbers and though the people did not know non-friends could view it, the cell-owners were not overly made me think twice though...
BTW, isn't Uncle Ben the rice guy?

Mel said...

Peter Parker's Uncle Ben ... you know, Spiderman. :)