I was in a sleep deprived state, when I returned to work and was greeted with an all consuming, high energy enthusiasm of a casual work colleague and our conversation went something like this…
Excitable work colleague: “She’s ADORABLE!”
Bewildered, sleep deprived me: “Oh…err…thank you?”
Excitable work colleague: “Her eyes are so big, and she has so much hair”
Bewildered, sleep deprived me: “Yes…she does.”
Excitable work colleague: “I love the picture of the cute pink outfit she is wearing, you know the one? The one where she is sitting in her car seat, it’s just soooooo cute!
I only had three hours of low grade, broken sleep the night before, so it took all the energy I had to stay engaged, as I tried to stay focused for the remainder of the conversation. In my sleep deprived state, I could only muster a weary smile; as her words merged into a stream of inaudible sound, although what happened next instantly knocked the lethargy right out of me…
To reinforce the point of how cute she found the newest addition of my collective, my excitable work colleague pulled out her phone and showed me a picture of the very image she was describing. She wasn’t scrolling through her newsfeed either; the image of my child was stored on her mobile device.
Let me be clear, I didn’t feel offended in any way, shape or formation, as I understood her intention but the situation was a little curious. In that moment, I wondered how she would have felt if I had done the same thing? Would she be okay if I had pictures of her daughters on my phone? Or is it perfectly acceptable to have imagery of other children if they are less than three months old?
It dawned on me just how much access perfect strangers have to the content shared via social media, as it is probably easier now to access the online content of others, then at anytime in human history.
At this point, it’s totally cool to disapprovingly shake your head and perhaps say to yourself…
“Oh Tyrone! Have you been living under the shadow of a rock, thrown into the Mariana Trench? Are you not aware of just how integral digital technology has become in our daily lives?”
Yeah, I am…
But I was raised in the era of the “physical photo album” and during that time when a new arrival was born you usually had to go to the parent’s home (or perhaps a close relative) to look through a collection of photographs that had been developed from their camera negatives or at the very least you had to be loosely associated with the person who had the photographs.
It’s still a little odd to me that I can post an image of my bundle of sleep deprivation and joy and not only can immediate family and friends access and/or download the images, but friends of their friends of their friends of their friends can access the same content.
The tech savvy among you, may sigh with a mild irritation and think to yourself “All you have to do is adjust your privacy settings!” But that still doesn’t eradicate the ability of getting access to shared content. If I adjust my privacy settings to allow Juliet personal access to what I post on Facebook that doesn’t stop Romeo from browsing through her mobile device.
It doesn’t stop ex-boyfriend/girlfriend curiosity, it doesn’t stop the work associate whom you hardly know browsing through your holiday pictures, it doesn’t stop an apps insatiable appetite to be granted permission to access your photo’s, it doesn’t stop cloud services on your device backing up images you thought you’d deleted and seemingly it doesn’t stop people feeling it’s totally okay to store pictures of children they find adorable.
I don’t want this post to create any unnecessary paranoia, panic, or pandemonium. I’m not suggesting we all want to be Darth Vader attempting to manipulate the dark side of the force… but what do you do when the gift of digital technical advancement is also, the curse?
In a modern culture where the symbiotic social and digital world increasingly feed off one another for survival and encourage us all to share more and more aspects of our daily lives.
But whatever way I attempt to slice the inviting piece of this pie, it ultimately comes down to ownership and responsibility. If I’m going to post anything then it has to be something that won’t embarrass or humiliate me. I could have spoken directly to my work college and asked her to delete the image, but how many others could have done the same? It’s a mission that’s impossible to know, because the situation is a needle in a digital haystack.
So I have come to the realisation, there are no concrete rules in this jungle of digital engagement. There are some things I can’t control, all I can do is make a conscious effort to take personal accountability for images and content I choose to share.
Until next time.