The possible advantages of the age of no privacy. In Rotherham, Rochdale, Derby…..

Young people are all over the internet. Facebooking, Instagramming, Snapchatting, and Vineing their way to a digital future. Some are making fortunes out of 6 second videos; others are getting themselves into trouble, sharing things that really shouldn’t be in public spaces, and which may come back to haunt them in the future careers and relationships. Gradually, many of them are waking up to the implications of permanent loss of privacy, and they are moving away from openness towards more private platforms like Whatsapp, and from permanence, towards more temporary media such as Snapchat.

That is the picture that many people have of today’s youth. But, it is by no means a universal truth. Is it true, for instance, of the 1400 (at least) children abused in Rotherham? Or of those abused in similar circumstances in Rochdale, Oxford, Derby, and who knows elsewhere? Were they sharing images and videos of where they were all the time? Were they raving on Facebook about their new “boyfriends”? Were they posting pictures on Instagram of the men they were spending time with? I’m pretty sure the answers to all these questions is “no”.

We worry, rightly, about how some young people seem to disregard the notion of personal privacy; and there are serious, legitimate, concerns about this, particularly with regard to vulnerable children. But, could it not be said that there is sometimes a positive side to reductions in privacy? I know, from my point of view, that I am glad that my children grew up in the era of mobile phones when they could contact me wherever they were. And I have been concerned over some of the things they have shared on social media. But, after all, what was purely playground high jinks to most of us, is now public for all the world to see.

It is evident that the testimonies of some of those abused by the likes of Jimmy Savile have encouraged others to come forward with their own stories. I was someone who had well-founded suspicions of Savile, based on what people who had experienced his presence had told me, but like so many others, I had no evidence. I cannot believe he would have got away with his abuse if his victims had been able to share their stories on social media.  So, I won’t stand for the argument that loss of privacy is a trend to be deplored 100%. Sometimes privacy can be a cloak which allows evil people to get away with abuse.

3 thoughts on “The possible advantages of the age of no privacy. In Rotherham, Rochdale, Derby…..

  1. This is really interesting John, I don’t think I’ve heard much from this perspective before. When added to what I heard Emma Mulqueeny talk about at TEDxBrum in relation to 97ers and how they think and learn (e.g. http://mulqueeny.wordpress.com/2014/02/02/the-97ers-and-identity/) I can’t help feeling even more optimistic about the ways that things are changing. Ways which will make it more and more difficult for people seeking to take advantage and inflict harm to do such things.

    It will be interesting to see whether/how changes in technology and the ways we relate to each other will help us at an individual level to deal with shame. Just knowing Brene Brown is out there saying the things she is must be helping. Oh how I love our emerging world of horizontal-ness, openness and platforms!

    • Thank Lorna

      I agree with you. But still we get the mainstream media (whose audience is threatened by the rise of social media – so they have a vested interest), playing up all the fears, scariness and bullying, which is just a very minor part of what goes on. Numerous people who don’t use social media have asked me how I cope with all the trolls and bullies. To which my reaction is always “What trolls and bullies?”. I never see them directly, and I suspect most other people don’t either.

  2. Yes, I was thinking about what mainstream media (and the sort of nonsense Facebook seems to thrive on) says about the terrible things that will happen to you if you use social media/share where you are/have a smartphone etc. etc.
    Mind you they also grossly exaggerate all sorts of other things which lead to us having a very skewed perception of what is risky and what isn’t.

    Your comment about trolls and bullies is interesting. Has anyone ever asked you how you deal with the bullies in all of the great things you do interacting with the public in community centres, on the street etc.? When I reflect on 17 years of community based work and 5(?) or so years of social media the times when I have had to deal with (or ignore) angry frustrated people has always been in the consultation events, community workshops etc. Not on social media. And times I have felt bullied were face to face, usually by a resident who I worked with a lot, but who struggled to control his reactions to things.

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