When the suicide of Rutgers’ student Tyler Clementi hit the headlines last week, people were shocked on many levels. Of course, there are huge issues around cyber-bullying and sexual orientation/identity. But what really struck me was the age of the people involved and what seemed to be the utter lack of understanding that some things were private. I was shocked to think that freshmen college students would think it was OK to video someone without their knowledge or consent, and broadcast that recording live across the web. Forget the fact that it was a sexual encounter of any kind; recording any activity of anyone without their knowledge and consent is not only an invasion of privacy, it raises ethical concerns, as well.
Technology has the ability to affect the way generations see the world, and every generation has had their “new” technology. When I was talking to my mom the other day about technology, she told me how it was a big deal when she got an electric washing machine to replace her ringer washer. But mom’s new washer was a convenience; she couldn’t hurt other people with it. Technology now is still about convenience, but it’s also about access to information. And, because of our celebrity culture, the access to information has turned into social networking and people broadcasting their own and other’s information, sometimes in quite inappropriate ways. The line between what is public and what should be private has been very blurred.
I’ll admit, I’m a Gen X’er, so my perspective is different from the Millenials or the Net Gen. I am on Facebook, and I recently joined Twitter. It’s been fun reconnecting with friends and family that I lost track of through the years. But sometimes the social networks are information overload for me. People post every thought they have, often not realizing that the information is now public, and that what they have posted may have repercussions down the road. And, as if it’s not bad enough that everyone has to know you ate a piece of pepperoni pizza for lunch, you can now share your location so everyone will know exactly what location of what pizza chain you bought it from. These announcements may be good for companies and name recognition and branding, but as a casual user, I’m left thinking, “Really?”
How do you think modern technology has influenced you and your generation? Where is the line between public and private? When do you think information shared has crossed the line into too much information? I’d love to hear what you think.