As the trial of Oscar Pistorius being televised in South Africa is hailed as “groundbreaking” and some news outlets have a serious discussion about whether Jennifer Lawrence really accidentally fell over at the Oscars last night our thoughts should turn to what is happening to society as our every move is scrutinised and combed through.
Some experts predict that in future we will be completely relaxed with knowing anyone can access a webcam of us at any time of the day and we will share our naked bodies as easily as we currently share our Twitter account or BBM pin.
On the face of it it’s very easy to reject this out of hand and laugh at the mere suggestion of such a society. I read the same articles and reacted in much the same way. When you look at some of the evidence around us though you start to realise that our respect for the privacy of others is long gone and our respect for our own privacy is fading. The internet as always gives us plenty of warning signs.
The rise of sites such as cam4.com, person.com and chaturbate.com (you have to love that play on words) have become more and more popular as chat roulette revealed the performing element of itself. Those of you familiar with the above sites will know what goes on. These sites offer performers the chance to pleasure themselves for tokens (money essentially) in front of either a select group or completely in public (performing for free in the case of person.com). We are all becoming more and more comfortable with sex and sexuality. That is not to say that we aren’t also victims but I will come back to that later.
Towards the end of last year the Playstation 4 was launched and rapidly had to have elements of its live stream service shut down on The Playroom (no that was not a play on words) as many chose to use the service as a sort of living-room-porn-studio. Access has been restored in some respects but with services like Twitch being extremely cautious.
We have slowly eroded the privacy of “celebrity” justifying it as the media have sold it to us as acceptable. They want to sell us their film or music so with that they sell themselves. We fell for it. Sites like TMZ are constantly pushing the envelope of what is private. Everything from audio recordings of 911 calls to footage from inside police cells. To be a celebrity now is to be owned by the worlds press and ultimately depending on how they sell those individuals to us their popularity either rises or falls.
So now while the life of celebrity is open for viewing and criticism so shows like Jeremy Kyle and Jerry Springer gave us a peek behind the curtain of the “normal” person. People who couldn’t afford paternity tests or lie detectors lined up to sell their soul for peace of mind in their relationship. Nobody challenged these shows very much. They continued and indeed continue to act as a voyeuristic show with an acceptable face. It’s ok though because they chose to go on there.
As any parent of a teenager must now be extremely concerned we are way past the point of sexting. Sexting carried the risk of being revealed to your entire class, or worse school, as some sort of pervert. Snapchat has removed the danger of this a little and now we see people sending pictures of themselves naked to complete strangers hidden behind a wall of false anonymity. Twitter itself and Vine have also been used to distribute this sort of material with its #afterdark popping up to those in the know.
What happened next was almost the same as what has happened with likes of the aforementioned chat shows featuring the general public. Somebody thought “well if they are going to put themselves out there like that” and decided to screen grab Snapchat photos and other private sexts before posting them on Facebook or other sites. These “revenge” sites as they have been called have in some instances been shut down. They are a worrying symptom of this increasing lack of privacy and respect for the privacy of others that seems to be infecting us all.
As we give so much of ourselves to the world now by the way of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine and indeed even blogs, we should sometimes pause to think about what we are giving away. Many people have started to retract from sharing certain things on Facebook. I have witnessed friends who refuse to post photos of their children on the social media site. I myself showed restraint when my father passed away several years ago. Some people are starting to feel uncomfortable with what is being given away.
We should open our eyes when news outlets feel that it is acceptable to publish both photos and posts from people arrested under suspicion of crimes. We then start to make assumptions on their guilt or innocence based on this information. Our several years of intimate comments could come back to haunt us should we find ourselves rightly or wrongly on the other side of the law. We miss this privacy being eroded in our scrabble for more information and more pieces of a puzzle that is not ours to put together.
The reason we sit up and react with such horror at the suggestion our bodies might become public is because it is the last thing we consider as public property. We have missed all these other pieces of our privacy disappearing before our eyes. When you let 500 strangers view your naked flesh as you pleasure yourself what are we gaining? Our insecurities will still be there afterwards not replaced with money or tokens.
We should be careful in condemning people on mass for this. Our instincts urge us to want to be desired and lusted after even the most reserved of us would want to feel desirable by our partners. We are also perfectly normal in wanting to know more about an on going court case or arrest.
I’m sure that photographs of individuals would have been distributed long before sexting. What we should be more concerned about is this phenomenon of profiting from this natural desire. When a 15 minutes live stream of you performing a sex act on yourself comes with a price tag what exactly is it we have sold? An experience? Ourselves? Or our ongoing battle for privacy? What does it take to put the brakes on? When your Facebook or Twitter posts are trawled over in the full glare of the media spotlight and you were innocent, will you then take up the cause? The cause for privacy.
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