Back in 1948, little Georgie Orwell wrote a book that imagined a world where people where the government rules supreme over all aspects of the life of the citizenry. “Dystopian” and “Oligarchic” are a couple of words that are often bandied about when Nineteen Eighty-Four and many a shitty high-school book report has discussed the growth of a strong Federal government and the associated concerns that come with it as imagined by Orwell.
When 1984 actually rolled around (the year I first read the book, by the way), people sat in anticipation for the Ministry of Peace and the Ministry of Love to be put into place and our daily lives to be dictated to us. Hell, those were the Reagan years. I think even at the tender age of 10 I was probably waiting for the same damn thing.
When 9/11 happened, many thought it was a foregone conclusion that we would be giving up privacy rights in the name of “National Safety.” Given what the Department of Homeland Security has done in the past ten years, I’m still not sure where we stand, but that “oligarchic,” “distopian” future we have all been afraid of for so long isn’t exactly here.
Now that I’ve gone and shown that I know me some modern history and the functions of government, let’s look into what has crawled up on us: social networking.
That’s right. Now with the procurement of a couple of free apps, you, too can see the comings and goings of all of your friends as well as what they are thinking almost minute to minute (depending on your fervor). The kicker is that we do this all voluntarily.
I’ll use myself as an example.
On a typical morning when I’m feeling productive, I’ll check into FourSquare at all of my stops, tweet a few status updates that then get reposted on Facebook and, normally, put a few things up on Tumblr. If followed, any forensic-minded fellow can make a nice timeline of my day.
The hilarious thing is that we don’t even think about it anymore. We want the badges from FourSquare, we are all tapped into Twitter and there just aren’t that many people in the Western World that don’t rely on Facebook as the end all, be all source for day-to-day information.
Big Brother, we iz it.
Given the right motivation, I could follow the public feeds of any given social network and figure out the daily patterns of a good chunk of social media junkies within a good ten mile radius of where I live. If I had a less savory sense of right, I could rob my friends and neighbors when they are away from home, sympathize with their pain and figure out where they’ll be at 9PM next Thursday.
This is all information we volunteer every day. I’m just sayin’.
Reliance on social media has also rooted its way deep into our “normal” conversation. I can’t tell you how many times a day I hear “did you see my status update?” This sort of “meta” conversation really cuts deep into the Orwellian concept of the future. Screw wanting a flying car, now you can have an in-depth conversation with your friends passively with supporting documentation.
Sure, we have bitched for almost forty years about how we don’t want the government to use their “secret” technology to track our every moves (the fodder for many a [insert strong male lead] movie) and ruin our lives. Now, thanks to the smart phone, we do it ourselves without even thinking.
Welcome to the 21st Century: Groupthink isn’t that far behind.