Getting personal

Growing up in the era that I have, I have witnessed technology grow and flourish at a rapid rate. I remember having to get off the internet if my parents where expecting a call, when a computer monitor was about the size of a large microwave and when your television was definitely not flat. I was the proud owner of a disc-man, followed by the mp3 player and have grown with technology to accept and embrace the iPod. I have been using new communication technologies for as long as I can remember and even in the 20 years I have been alive, it has evolved so much. New communication technologies have become entangled in our lives so much so that some people could not imagine life without them.

I first started using computers and the internet in primary school, and then signed up for social media sometime in high school. I was influenced by the people around me to make this decision; all of my closest friends had a social media account of some sort, and I wanted to be a part of that. I lived with my dad as my only parent at that time and because he hadn’t grown up in the era that I was growing up in, he didn’t understand the benefits or risks of putting yourself on the internet. Privacy is a big issue when using new communication technologies and your privacy is most vulnerable when you are putting your personal details on the internet.  It’s not just other individuals that may breach the level of privacy you would like to have online, companies such as Facebook and Google collect data from their users and use it to conduct in-house research. In 2012, Facebook manipulated the news feeds of some of its users in order to study how they reacted when shown either positive or negative updates; they wanted to understand “emotional contagion” (Facebook manipulates 700K users’ newsfeeds in secret study prompting backlash 2014).

Social media has brought many positive attributes to using the internet such as keeping in touch with family and friends easily, advertising, business pages, blogs and creative outlets along with many others, although there is an inherent risk of issues around privacy. Facebook is not the only website to conduct studies using its users data – although it does seem to be the first to have manipulated it to study a reaction. Telstra reportedly installed surveillance systems in 2013 to “”vacuum” the telephone calls, texts, social media messages and internet metadata” of customers so that the “information can be filtered and given to intelligence and law enforcement agencies” (Telstra’s data ‘vacuum’ 2013). With many companies using the metadata of its customers/users, some may try to find ways to protect their privacy on the internet. Personally, I deal with privacy issues by only putting information on the internet that I am comfortable with anyone seeing. As for all of my data being manipulated or studied, it’s hard to know when this is happening or stop it from happening to you. Creating a social networking account and using a companies website puts you at inherent risk of your information being studied or used in ways that you may not be comfortable with, if this is the case; I suggest you steer clear from the internet.

Companies are not the only internet presence that don’t show their true colours on the internet, some people present themselves differently online to in person. People market themselves online and aim to show only the best version of themselves, this can cause trouble as you may be great friends with a wonderful, witty person online only to meet them and discover they have the personality of a cardboard box. Distance and detachment from face to face communication can make someone appear different to who they are in real life conversation.

At the end of the day, every advancement in communication technologies has their downfall but this should not make us steer clear of progress. The wonderful advancements in communication would not be possible without these new communication technologies. Every extension of the human body comes with the opportunity to do good or evil, and in my opinion it is up to the user to ensure they protect themselves as much as possible when using the internet.

Facebook manipulates 700K users’ newsfeeds in secret study prompting backlash June 2014, viewed 9 August 2014, <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-06-30/backlash-over-facebooks-unethical-secret-study/5558560&gt;

Telstra’s data ‘vacuum’ December 2013, viewed 9 August 2014, <http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/telstras-data-vacuum-20131205-2yucb.html&gt;

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