Privacy in the Digital Age

With the rise of media and technology and constant evolution of it, our concept of privacy has also been affected. In this digital culture that we live in, we are, in some way or another, in constant connection to media. Like what Nathan Jurgenson suggests, we are looking at life through a “Facebook eye”, meaning that we are always framing our lives and experiences to fit on social media. We are constantly in search of our next Instagram post that will attract the most likes or followers, and the next tweet that will get the most retweets. By having this mentality, we are often reaching the point of oversharing. People have become too comfortable online that they have no filter as to what is appropriate to share and therefore our concept of privacy has been changed. Privacy has become very relaxed with the constant connection that we have to the online community, but more than that, our private sphere is being invaded by others actions on the internet.

Franzen writes in “Imperial Bedroom”, that “If privacy depends upon an expectation of invisibility, the expectation of visibility is what defines a public space. My ‘sense of privacy’ functions to keep the public out of the private and to help the private out of the public” (Franzen, 48) He argues that rather than a loss of his own privacy, it is others’ loss of privacy that intrudes on his “private space”. He insists that to maintain privacy in this digital culture, it is dependent upon both parties, your protection of your privacy and others’ restriction of their lives online.

These changes to the dynamics of privacy, are closely connected to how community has been changed. Looking back at the oral era, privacy was not needed nor was there any meaningful form of privacy due to the fact that their community was small and centralized. Everyone knew each other, so there was a mutual watch over each other, meaning that privacy was non-existent. Moving into the scribal era, religion played an important role in their community which provided surveillance of the community, meaning that privacy was a bit more present but still there was less of a need. The modern era is where we start to see a major shift in community. From the rise in cities and population, people become distanced from the idea of knowing everyone in the community and achieve more privacy, while the rise of institutions provides the surveillance for communities. And finally, the post-modern era is where we begin to see a “loss of privacy” and a panic around that idea. However, while the lack of privacy in the oral era was based around a tighter community, in the post-modern era, it is based around access to a different kind of community through media and technology.

Although, Franzen suggests that rather than a loss of privacy, there is a larger issue with how others’ lack of privacy invades our “private space”, I agree more with Vincent Miller when he says that “It is up to the individual to choose what information about one and one’s life is available, and to whom”. There is a definite shift in our concept of privacy, which comes from the change in our community. I do believe that there has been a loss of privacy but that comes from your personal use of media, rather than how others’ use of media affects you. One still has control over privacy if they choose to.

I am able to maintain privacy when I use media, by only sharing certain aspects my life that I choose to. The change in technology and community, has no doubt affected the concept of privacy. Although there is less privacy, it still remains a choice for people to make use of their privacy or to participate in the online community of oversharing.