Friday, October 28, 2011

The Next Story - #8

Visibility and Privacy (Chapter 9: Seeing and being seen)

Ironically, we crave both visibility and privacy online.

We leave deliberate traces of our presence online: we comment on a blog, make a twitter update, update a Facebook status, post our own blogs, write emails, etc.

What we might not realise is at the same time, we are leaving digital traces wherever we go:
  • Facebook knows what computer I am using, where I am, and what ads I have seen and whether I have clicked on any of them
  • Mastercard knows where I was when I bought lunch
  • Google knows which blogs I read, and which sites I have visited
  • The bank knows when & where I get money out
  • My mobile phone carrier knows where I am via GPS
We are under constant surveillance. We leave trails of physical evidence wherever we go (but no-one tracks the skin cells and hairs we leave behind). In our digital lives we also leave digital evidence wherever we go, and we are tracked and profiled depending on the data trails we leave behind.

Challies suggests we react in 2 ways:
  1. Be aware of the fact that everything digital is traceable and react accordingly, keeping important information safe
  2. Understand our lives are public in an unprecedented way. Through this we can bring honour to God or dishonour to his name.

When data is sorted, collated and analysed it can show patterns of behaviour and it can be predictive. The more data, the more accurate the profiles can be. Facebook has massive amounts of personal data about our lives – our birthdate, location, likes, religion, tastes, family connections – which are a goldmine for advertisers. Google searches are based on mathematical formula to interact with data to make money. Banks, Facebook, Google etc, make a mathematical model of us, that we can be explained by numbers and data.

We are individuals lovingly made by a creator. But we are learning not to see people as real people made in the image of God, but rather depersonalised data items, statistics, numbers, consumers, etc.

At the same time, our trail of data shows who we are when no-one can see us – the websites we visit, the comments we make, etc. Our searches show our hearts and desires, and they are retained forever. We ask search engines private questions, we look for answers online that we wouldn’t dare ask people.

We need to be diligent living lives marked by what we believe, ensuring we are above reproach at all times.
“Ultimately this visibility serves to remind us that we live all of our lives before the all-seeing eye of the Lord. Nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. (Luke 8:17). While we live in the view of mobile phone carriers and internet providers and search engines, we ultimately live before God, the one who sees all and knows all, and who will demand an accounting of every word, every deed, every moment we were given on this earth.” (33:11ff)

Seeing and being seen

While we are concerned about privacy online, at the same time we love to be seen. We are exhibitionists (as evidenced by the millions of YouTube videos and photo sharing websites) and we are voyeurs (watching these videos and reality TV).

Challies asks: “What happened to humility? What happened to respect?”

Where is humility in desiring to be seen and to have the attention? Are we looking for approval from God or attention from others?

Where is the respect when people’s lives are on show and are mocked or used for entertainment? Life becomes marked by disrespect.
“The bible calls us to so much more. It calls us to live with discretion, to live lives marked with humility, with respect for one another, to make little of ourselves so we can make much of Christ.” (42:34ff)

  • Be aware – our devices leave trails. Our lives are in the public eye
  • Develop character – in a world that emphasises entertainment, develop character. Examine your entertainment, and your character. Do you need to reform your entertainment?
  • Examine your trail – Are you trying to clean up your trail? Are you trying to protect yourself or hide your sin?

Things to think about (some based on Challies’ questions):
  • Are there times you like to be seen?
  • What does your data trail say about you? Would you like your spouse, parents, pastor to see it?
  • How have you changed knowing people can see you? Do you realise God can see you all time?
  • Is your character changed by exhibitionist and exploitative entertainment? Do you need to change the entertainment you view?

On Monday - some final thoughts

No comments: