Technology Qualms

Early last year, I left a site I’d been a member of for almost 6 years – Digg. Why? Well, because they changed their user system. Instead of having a Digg account, you had to use your Facebook account to log in. They’ve since changed this to allow you to use your Twitter or Google Plus accounts as well. The problem? Quite simply, I don’t have a Facebook or Google Plus account, and have absolutely no plans to get one. I do have a Twitter account, so I could return, but that first announcement was the “last straw.” But it points out something that’s becoming an increasing problem: The assumption that everyone has a Facebook account.

I’ve run into this on more than one occasion. My Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, sent out an e-mail asking me to sign a petition on the Internet. No big deal, right? Except that I would need a Facebook account to do it. So no, she didn’t get my signature. It’s not that I wasn’t in favor – I was – it was that the only way provided was to have an account with something I don’t want. That’s just the most recent example My reasons for not having an account haven’t changed, if anything, they’ve been confirmed by the series of rather controversial actions they’ve had in the past year. Being honest, I’m not all that fond of Twitter, either. I do have an account, but the amount of time I spend on it in a week is about the amount of time you’re spending reading this.

I know I can come across as a luddite.  I’m not really, or at best, I’m a “neo-luddite.”  I don’t have a cell phone, I don’t “do” social networking, and I really look askance on some of the “solutions” that people think computers or smartphones will solve. The reason I’m like that is that I’m an old geek. I was using computers back in the late ’70’s, I wrote programs from the early ’80’s on, I’ve been a computer tech, and I was on the Internet before the World Wide Web existed, and even before it was called “the Internet.” That gives me a sense or perspective, along with a healthy dose of skepticism. I’ve seen too many bright ideas either never come to pass, or end up having different results than the predictions.

I can also look back at my own teen and college years and remember doing a number of (in retrospect) risky, stupid, and probably illegal things. They make for some embarrassing stories when I get together with old friends, but that’s the extent of it. While they’re a part of “who I am” today, they aren’t anything that has returned to haunt me in my professional or personal life, mainly because I haven’t run for national office. I don’t expect today’s young people to be any brighter than we were. They’re going to do risky, stupid, and probably illegal things.

That’s why the ability to “be connected” almost constantly has me concerned. The technology we have today has raced far ahead of the social and legal norms, with some potentially nasty consequences. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, or texting, it seems that although the technology makes it “easy,” people really haven’t grasped the implications, particularly for themselves. It’s one thing to say or do something stupid in front of your friends. It’s another entirely to do so in a way that hundreds – if not millions – of people get to see it, and it can be linked to you forever,

Morrissey collected the offensive tweets, along with the names of the students (the majority of whom are assumedly younger than 18), a gleeful accounting of the activities they’d likely list on college applications — such as their sports teams and pageants — their schools, the responses from school officials — the few who responded expressed disapproval — and the news that in most cases, the student had since deleted their Twitter account.

But that deletion will do them little good.

or give you a criminal record and a label as a child pornographer

Around 28% of 948 high school students admitted to “having sent a naked picture of themselves.” For the study, sexting was defined as sharing naked pictures, as opposed to semi-nude photos or explicit messages. Around 57% of survey participants said they have been asked to sext and most said they were “bothered” by the request.

Creation, possession, and distribution of nude pictures of anyone under the age of 18 is among the definitions of child pornography. It doesn’t matter if the child took the picture themselves, or “only” intended to share it with one other person.  They don’t even take into consideration that it may not be as “private” as they thought.

When I was young, getting caught being stupid meant being grounded, embarrassed for a while, and having a story you’d rather the next generation didn’t hear.  Today, not only is it easier to get caught, it can have life-long consequences.    That’s not necessarily a good thing.  Hence my qualms.  Technology has been racing forward, and we haven’t stopped to think about “what’s acceptable,” or what consequences there are to that technology, and developed ways to mitigate some of them.   We can’t put the technology genie back in the bottle, but we can do something to limit what damage it can do, and it’s past time we did.

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Categories: Technology | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Technology Qualms

  1. sjterrid

    I don’t have a Facebook or Twitter account. I thought of getting one because of the election, but there are so many people that write really well, and it would take me forever to add something. I, also, don’t like confrontation, and there are a lot of people on the internet that will argue and attack you if they disagree with you.

    • I’ve never liked Facebook’s privacy policies, and besides that, I don’t feel any particular urge to share my personal life with various strangers. 😉 I didn’t join MySpace, LinkedIn, or any of the others when they were “hot.” Twitter is somewhat useful during “breaking news” situations, but outside of that, it becomes a case of Too Much Information streaming across your feed. After a while, I started ignoring it.

      As far as confrontation, I’m rather the opposite. 😉

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