Tag Archives: privacy

The Cult of Social Media

Frustrated Woman Using Laptop

“Not everyone can be a hero. There are more people who need to be saved.” -Anonymous

My fourteen-year-old daughter videotapes me. I am dancing and singing to the latest hip hop tune on the radio. She quickly uploads the video to Snapchat and labels it, “My Mom is Silly.” She giggles as she plays it back for me. When I fail to protest against the post, she deletes it. “Why did you do that?” I ask. “I want to be the most popular mom on Snapchat.”

She shakes her phone at me. “No, you don’t.”

I laugh, but inside I feel like my father. He wanted fame and fortune for his four daughters, but he didn’t get it. He taught us to dream big; not knowing our dreams would leave us orphans living ordinary lives.

But with the advent of Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and other social media, everyone is entitled to their daily shot at fame and for some, even fortune. Everyone has a chance to be a hero. Everyone has a chance to save the world with a few clicks at the keyboard. Suddenly you are the star of your own show, and if you’re lucky, you’ll have enough followers to inflate your ego for weeks at a time…or at least until your next post.

With all of this power comes the threat of loss of privacy, loss of intimacy, and the loss of self. Some video bloggers record everything about their day from the moment they wake up to the moment they fall asleep. Sure, those 12 hours may be edited to last only 15 minutes, but those 15 minutes shared are now owned by the viewer, whether it’s one person or one million people.

My daughter values her privacy. That’s why she only uses Snapchat with the hopes that the 30 second videos that disappear shortly after being posted are truly deleted from the Internet and won’t resurface three years later when she’s applying for college or a job.

As a middle-aged parent, I understand her concern and her guardedness, but as an author and a public speaker, I can’t afford anonymity. I can’t “save face” as my father always preached. I have to show my face whether or not what I’ve done is shameful or glorious. It’s part of the job.

We sometimes forget the public doesn’t need to know everything, especially when we are sitting in the comfort of our living room posting our thoughts and feelings for the world to see. It gives us a sense of belonging that temporarily erases the loneliness of our increasingly solitary lives.

But is social media the panacea to our isolation? And does it truly replace the intimacy we crave?

We go online for everything from shopping to information, but we go offline to live. It’s in those moments of being face to face with another human being that we get a chance to express what we hold in our hearts to be true: our irreplaceable uniqueness is what makes us sympathetic and real.

To Tell or Not to Tell the Truth

With the media focused on Edward Snowden’s National Security Agency leak, people throughout the United States are scrutinizing our nation’s security and our people’s right to privacy.

In my novel, Out of Balance, computer expert turned stay-at-home-dad Eric Mael writes a program that takes down the power grid without detection. The power company’s supposed internal malfunction leaves employees under suspicion while Eric’s wife, Beverly, ponders whether or not she should go public with the truth even though it will destroy her family.

“As soon as we get home, Eric logs onto the computer and checks the local news. Already, there is a blurb about the incident. ‘Power Outage Seizes City’ reads the headline. I glance over his shoulder and read the article. ‘PG&E technicians are investigating the black–out’ it begins. My palms start to sweat. What if they find out it was my husband? What will happen to us?

Eric bursts into laughter. ‘Listen to this. “Technicians suspect an internal system error may have caused the outage.”’

A ripple of relief snakes through me. Maybe everything will be all right. Maybe no one will know it was Eric.”

However, guilt starts to gnaw away at Beverly as time goes by.

“In the kitchen, Vi, Eric, and I sit at the small circular table drinking chai and talking about the brief power outage last night.

‘The girls and I were watching Avatar,’ Vi says. ‘The whole house went dark and when we gazed outside, we could not see anything. It looked like a black ocean.’

‘Yeah, it was amazing, wasn’t it?’ Eric sips his chai and eyes me.

My whole body tenses. I want to pull Vi into the other room and tell her the truth. But I know compromising my husband’s secret will only jeopardize the family. Oh, what should I do?”

This dilemma between knowing the truth and exposing the truth is a tenuous line between personal safety and global responsibility, yet only an individual can determine what the right thing to do under each circumstance is.

Edward Snowden chose to reveal the truth, for better or for worse.

Read Out of Balance to discover what choice Beverly made and if it would be the same one you would make under similar circumstances.