Our personal and public lives have separated as we unwaveringly press forward into the digital age. However, this isn’t a diatribe on the rules of internet security or the dangers of opening yourself up to the world’s scrutiny—it’s also not about catfishing, data mining, or how Facebook and other media conglomerates are today’s axes of evil.
The value of an individual opinion is at stake—specifically, whether an opinion has diminished value when it’s stapled to a public message board.
I wonder why our internal response to social media appears to be a voluntary rummaging through our pockets for our private thoughts, opinions, and personal experiences to post in the public domain. Is it really a wise choice to be so open about the information we use to define ourselves?
There’s far more value in discussing an opinion than publishing it.
Expounding on a topic is valuable only if it’s met by thoughtful dialogue, not by the automaton responses of likes, emoji reacts, or comments from sycophants and trolls. Too often, the bona fides of an idea exchange are less important than those of likes and retweets.
There’s something inspirational about the vastness of the information age. The ability to extend our social networks, our buying and political capitals and our ideas across the world have a positive potential to create life-altering exchanges.
Yet, you can’t create a relationship in 140 characters, and the personal relationship is lost when its success isn’t in the intimacy of the exchange but in the number of screens your message passes through.
I can’t know what someone really thinks from a tweet or from a status update.
Certainly, this information can tell me who these people are—to help me identify, rally behind, or sympathize with them.
But this information was volunteered to the public in an incomplete fashion. It’s missing the vital connection between an individual and their self-identifiers. In its incomplete form, this information is a simultaneously everlasting, non-redactable amendment to their online persona.
More than ever, people are ready to share and perhaps profit from the publishing of private and personal information. Despite all the consequences, most people don’t seem to care. The promise of a global community through social media is lost in the superficial and surface-level nature of its discourse.
The consequence of modern online exchange is the spread of personal information for impersonal relationships. It’s becoming clear most people often desire to be part of the experience rather than be a part of an advancing discourse.
One of the great privileges of life is to understand and interpret the world, to come to an opinion. To share that opinion on its own—and plaster it across your public image without first bringing it to discussion—is irresponsible, devaluing the opinion’s worth to its possessor and the value it has in greater debate.
Spencer is a fifth-year history student and The Journal’s Senior Photo Editor.
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