Thursday, November 12, 2015

Our Wired Lives on Facebook Series: #3 The Difference Between Public, Private and Personal

Currently I’m reading Randi Zuckerberg’s book Dot Complicated: Untangled Our Wired Lives (2013). After Randi layouts some amazing benefits of the Internet, she then proceed to write about the ‘grey zone’:

“Before the Internet came along, we could categorize our information in three simple ways: public, private, or personal.
            Public information is exactly what it sounds like. This is everything you’re totally cool with people knowing or having access to, or winding up on the front page of a newspaper.
            Private information includes the things that you would only tell your lawyer, therapist, doctor, spouse, diary, or absolutely no one at all.
            But then there’s personal information – the category in between, full of complicated nuance. This includes things you might tell your friends but you probably won’t share with strangers.
            I post family photos on Facebook all the time for my friends to see. I see photos of my friend’s kids, weddings, and families. None of these photos are private per se. It wouldn’t ruin anyone’s life if these cute, harmless photos wound up in the press. But these images are certainly personal, which means my friends trust me to behave appropriately when I see them.
            It’s generally pretty easy to identity information as either public or private. But when it comes to personal information – that middle ground between something that’s okay to share slightly outside your immediate circle but not with absolutely everyone – you enter a bit of a grey zone.
            Before the Internet arrived, the grey zone was there, but it was much smaller. You could be fairly certain that if you showed your vacation bikini pics to your friends, it didn’t mean your aunt and your aunt’s friends and some random guy you once went to high school with were also going to see, distribute, and comment on them. Your friends would understand the nuance and context of what they were seeing and know not to share personal material with the outside world. Sitting around the coffee table looking at your photo albums, you controlled the distribution of your information.
            But online you don’t have the luxury. Online you have private and you have public, and the entire concept of personal information has vanished.
            This causes problems…
            When personal information goes public, it’s really hard to know what to do about it
            This whole situation needs to be fixed. It can’t be that we’re going to have to adjust to a world where we cannot share anything but our utmost public and sterile information. Sharing the personal stuff with others is an essential aspect of what it means to be human. If our online lives are to be fully integrated, then as we go forward we need to find a way to bring back personal information online. We must be able to post some pool pics without the whole world finding out, even if one of our friends is feeling little overenthusiastic with the share button that day…
            Repost unto others as you would have them repost unto you.”
[Long excerpt from Dot Complicated: Untangling Our Wired Lives by Randi Zuckerberg (Harper-Collins Publishers, 2013), page 78-80. Buy this book!]

Let technology supposed to help us, not lord it over us.
Let technology fill our lives with meaning, rather than fear.
Let technology empowered us, rather than overwhelmed us.
Let technology become tools of opportunity to glorify God in everything,
rather than promote insecurity.

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