How do the specifics of the technologies alter how we communicate, present ourselves, and create a sense of self to present to others? What kinds of lives and selves are online in blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and SL?
Technology, specifically the Internet, has – without a doubt – drastically changed the way we think about privacy, intimacy, and display. When considering the point of the Internet’s creation, it was to foster communication between military and government faculties. Today, everybody can now communicate over the Internet. Because of the convenience and ease of sharing, communicating, interacting, and uploading online, our privacy and the intimate aspects of our lives are on display, whether we want it to or not. Through various Internet websites and tools, such as social media, blogging, e-mail, instant messaging, etc., it becomes more of an incentive and easier to input more information about ourselves online. For example, the only reason I created a Facebook was because everyone else – specifically, my group of friends – in my high school had an account. Once I was on Facebook, I felt the need to build a complete profile, which of course meant putting a picture of myself up. Additionally, inputted my hometown, which high school I attended, who my family members were, who my girlfriend was, my hobbies, interests, etc. I had also framed this information in a way that made myself look “cooler” than I actually was. In a sense, I was lying about who I truly was, because I was establishing an identity online that I had complete control over. With the freedom to input what information you wanted, it was easy to frame information in a certain way or omit or add information at my say. Regardless, I had put every aspect of my life that I could think of online and this was simply due to the influence of everyone in my high school. Due to the convenience and social norm pressures of technology, it is easy to include personal information about yourself. The same could be said of what you decide to write about in a blog or in an e-mail. Nothing you put online is 100% safe from un-wanted sources reaching that information.
In terms of how specific technologies create specific identities, the answer is simple. Depending on the format of the online technology, you can change your identity. Games like Second Life, with different character physical appearance options and communities, allow a player to create seemingly infinite amounts of different identities. Facebook only allows you to create an identity that reflects who you are in real life, due to the nature of social networking. Blogging allows for multiple options. One could become an amateur historian, an independent journalist, or keep a journal of your private thoughts. On Twitter, anyone can make an account that is relative to their “real life” self. Additionally, I follow “novelty” accounts that simply tweet jokes or content that is unrelated to the identity of the person managing the account. Depending on the technology, one can form one or several different identities.
Thanks to the information leaks of Edward Snowden about the mass surveillance program the NSA had established, we now know that the government is putting extensive effort into collecting information on citizens. Many people feel that the government has overstepped their boundaries in collecting data on what we do online. Others say that they would rather have their e-mails read then possibly suffer a terrorist attack as large as 9/11. Privacy is a value when there is a threat that it can be infringed upon. Conversely, is the risk of a terrorist attack and the incredible damage it can cause worth fighting the government over? Personal liberties (maintaining privacy) vs. the potential safety of a nation (surveillance) is a deep philosophical issue that, unfortunately, has no answer.