As I am writing this post, I have a sense that every word I type is entering, not a black hole, but rather an internet galaxy of trillions of gigabytes (correction, zettabytes) of other words and images. And rather than entering what used to be deemed as a mysterious cyberspace, my words are now searchable, indexable, and can even be claimed and named by another person altogether. Scientists are finding, and naming, thousands of new planets and stars daily; the universe is not nearly so obscure. We are empowered by knowing we can now come to know what we don’t yet know.
But do I want to be discoverable – and discovered? How do I manage this vulnerability, when there is part of me that is drawn to the idea that others might be interested in, even impressed by, the words I have written? To be discovered, or not to be? I now have no choice either way.
So, what are my thoughts about online safety, security, and privacy? It is fading and getting beyond our grasp. I can only hope that Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt is correct, that “these problems can be solved, and one of the great things about our society is that you can write these predictions out, and people will attack them and they will solve them.”
Maybe this is a non-issue, since these are public words I am writing – at least I am allowing them to be. But there are private words and images, or so I might desire, that are accessible as well, text messages to family members, personal photos posted for friends, locations identified where I have been, or even where I am right now.
I am relieved to have some resources now to start the long journey of ‘cleaning up’ my digital footprint. But, ironically, I am also aware that I need to take steps forward to actually add more footprints. However, my steps will be more cautious now, more intentional, probably rewritten many times over, and certainly not posted in haste.
So, I am choosing to be in an online world. And I want to be an informed mentor to those just now joining me in this galaxy; but even more, to those younger who have been born into this internet culture and who might feel disconnected even within their online connectedness. Danah Boyd shared a profound solution for helping young people who are overwhelmed by this social media world and “who are frustrated with the destabilized network landscape around them.” Both offline and online, young and old, “we must build and support sustained networks of people… [we must] protect people as networks” (Boyd, 2018). In other words, create and uphold real live communities, even if they are built within a virtual neighborhood. This allows for the proverbial “it takes a village” mindset, with people who can be mentors, internet navigators, and social media moderators of sorts. In these communities there can be the safety and security that comes from belonging and the mutual respect that will, hopefully, result in more online kindness.
NPR’s All Things Considered. (2013, Apr 22). Google Execs Talk Privacy, Security in ‘The New Digital Age’. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2013/04/22/178424347/google-execs-talk-privacy-and-security-in-the-new-digital-age.
Boyd, Danah. (2018, Mar 7). What Hath We Wrought?. SXSW EDUCAUSE. [YouTube].