Why Online Privacy is a Myth

Photo by Lianhao Qu on Unsplash

The internet is divided into two camps: those who believe in online privacy, and those who know better.

I have a private Instagram account, which I’m self-aware enough to admit is ironic.

Still, I like the idea that if someone wants access to my digital world they have to at least knock on the door first.

I like receiving follower requests and having the ability to accept or deny them. It makes me feel safe even though it is a completely meaningless and delusional exchange.

A private account is just a transparent security blanket. Comforting perhaps, but ultimately useless.

If someone wants access to you, they’ll eventually get it.

Perhaps they’ll go through the back door making a finsta. A seemingly innocuous profile that you might overlook.

Or they could always choose to follow your friend, the wannabe influencer. The one who documents every moment for the internet and by proxy your life as well.

Instagram, which originated as a simple photo-sharing platform has now morphed into an ego-boosting, FOMO inducing, advertisement filled photo-sharing platform.

Instagram is where you go to find out who is doing what and with whom. The only private account is that which has no followers.

Anyone can screenshot anything at any time. Believe me, there are tons of students who’ve been ousted from their academic institutions that can attest to this.

Perhaps it’s time to cool it with the racist TikToks, guys?

Content no matter its form or time spent “officially” posted will live on the internet forever.

A deleted tweet, an edited caption, or reposted image is as only useful as it is comforting.

The “delete” option has lulled internet users into believing that their content is ephemeral. It is not.

Time-sensitive features on Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook like “stories” allude to posted content being temporary. And recent additions like “close friends” only offer a heightened sense of privacy for this fantasy.

These platforms allow you to highlight memories and pin them on your profile for convenience only. Because again, once posted your content will be memorialized, just in ways, you may never know.

That vacation selfie may live in a stranger’s photos, on a hard drive, or some underwater server farm.

When you post a photo to your grid you’re affixing it to your digital narrative. Its obvious presence on your profile will communicate to anyone who enters your digital space its importance. And should you delete it, it will be not be forgotten by the internet.

The various sharing features on social media categorize content by importance based on the level of exposure it has been given on your profile.

And while all these features may allow you to “delete” your content, they are never really gone. Not in a world where screenshots, screen-recordings, and sleuth accounts exist.

Online privacy is, and will always be in direct conflict with social media.
Social media is geared toward connectivity therefore, there is constant resistance to attempts to compartmentalize or edit digital life.

That being said, don’t forget to request me…on your finsta or your regular profile. You choose, it’s all the same. Really.

Social media and culture writer. @bonebritt

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