Radical Privacy and the Internet

December 2012

I recently read an interesting article on Current Editorials entitled “Frozen Pizza: How Instagram is Fueling the Frivolous.” In it he (all of the authors on CE are men) talks about something I’ve been thinking about for a while, namely the celebration of mediocrity. An excerpt:

Services like Instagram and Vine are fuelling the frivolous. Many people, myself included, are fooled into this false belief that we always have something interesting to say or share. I think it’s important to be aware of this false sense of importance, to step back a little bit and ask ourselves if what we’re doing means something. Next time you post a Tweet, take an Instagram photo, update your Facebook status, or record a Vine, ask yourself “Why am I posting this? Does it really matter?”. Think critically about what you choose to post online.

At the top of this post is an Instagram photo I took in December of 2012 during a work break. Unless I miscalculated, this should be new to everyone here aside from myself. After the over-sharing of life that I deemed necessary when I was running a fill-time creative business (you are your brand &c.) my emotional pendulum swung the other way. Believe it or not, I actually wrote an article on this site a while back about this very topic. My conclusion was that the truly radical act in this time of over-sharing was keeping things private, so I ended up not publishing it publically. I thought this was extremely clever by the way. I put a few photos up on Facebook, but not many. I’m at the point in life now where, if you want to know me, you need to get to know me.

Back in my zine heyday (aka the late 90s) I wrote a perzine (personal zine) about my life. Now it’s a very raw, embarrassing document of what my day-to-day life was like in High School. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but back in the 90s sharing your personal life was crazy. Most teenagers didn’t have cell phones, I carried a pager which was just strange, and maybe half of us had internet at home (dial up, baby). I had to register for college classes over a touch tone phone, and my Dad thought this was some huge leap forward because he actually had to register for classes in person by standing in very long lines. As all of these things changed the nexus of “radical” has changed. I think there will be a swing back toward actual privacy in the future; there’s too much cyber bullying and too many people having the guy who date raped them pop up as a “suggested friend” on Facebook for it not to grow tiresome.

Obviously I’m not “over” the internet; I think radical ideas should bring about practical change. In other words: I’m not going off-grid, but I am thinking more about what I post and (for the most part) my blog posts are now as much critical thinking exercises for myself as anything. You’ve probably noticed that already though. I’ve also noticed a resurgence of zines, which is kind of wonderful. Maybe my dreams of a zine library and incorporating them into my teaching aren’t so far-fetched after all. The pendulum is swinging back in my direction and I love it.

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