Reminder: Other people’s lives are not fodder for your feeds

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You should wince when you read that hashtag. Because it’s a reminder that are to be being socially engineered by engineering platforms to objectify and spy on each other for voyeuristic solace and profit.

The short version of the narrative attached to the cringeworthy hashtag is this: Earlier this month private individuals, called Rosey Blair, invested all the hours of a plane flight expending her smartphone and social media feeds to invade the privacy of her tush neighbours — publicly gossiping about the health of two strangers.

Her speculation was set against a backdrop of rearview creepshots, with a few cases just there scribbles added to blot out actual facial aspects. Even as an entire privacy occupying narrative was being spun unknowingly around them.

#PlanePrivacyInvasion would be a more fitting hashtag. Or #MoralVacuumAt35000ft

And hitherto our youthful surveillance society started with a far loftier plan associated with it: Citizen journalism.

Once we’re all forearmed with powerful smartphones and ubiquitously fast Internet there will be no limits to the genuinely important reportage that will flow, we were told.

There will be no way for the powerful to withhold the truth from the people.

At least that was the nirvana we were sold.

What did we get? Something that sounds much closer to mass manipulation. A tsunami of ad stalking, intentionally forge word and social media-enabled demagogues expertly proper these very same implements by gamifying mind-less, ethically nil algorithms.

Meanwhile, masses of ordinary people+ pervasive smartphones+ omnipresent social media feeds seems, for the essential points, to be arising in a kind of mainstream attention deficit disorder.

Yes, there is citizen journalism — such as people recording and broadcasting everyday know-hows of aggression, racism and sexism, for example. Events that might otherwise extend unreported, and which are definitely underreported.

That is certainly important.

But there are also these telling times of #hashtaggable ethical blackout. As a result of what? Let’s call it the entice of’ citizen clickbait’ — as people use their designs and feeds to simulated the worst kind of tabloid luminary chitchat’ journalism’ by turning their tending and high tech implements on strangers, with( apparently) no major motive beyond the simple fact that they can. Because technology is enabling them.

Social standards and common courtesy should kick in and prevent this. But social media is pushing in an disproportionate and opposite attitude, encouraging consumers to turn anything — even strangers’ lives — into raw material to be repackaged as’ content’ and flung out for voyeuristic entertainment.

It’s life shine exchange. But a particularly insidious form of commerce that does not accept editorial let alone ethical responsibility, has few( if any) moral standards, and relies, for continued part, upon deprive away society’s collective feel of privacy in order that these self-styled’ sharing’ (‘ taking’ is closer to the mark) platforms can swell in width and profit.

But it’s even worse than that. Social media as a data-mining, ad-targeting enterprise relies upon eroding our notion in privacy. So these programmes fret away at that by trying to disrupt our understanding of what privacy symbolizes. Because if you were to consider what another person visualizes or feels — even for a millisecond — you might not post whatever piece of’ material’ you had in mind.

For the pulpits it’s far better if you just forget to think.

Facebook’s business is all about exercising engineering ingenuity to eradicate the astute friction of personal and societal conscience.

That’s why, for instance, it expends facial identification engineering to automate material identification — necessitating there’s almost no opportunity for individual conscience to kick down and pipe up to calmly suggest that publicly labelling others in a piece of content isn’t actually the right thing to do.

Because it’s polite to ask permission first.

But Facebook’s antisocial automation pushings beings away from fantasizing to ask for permission. There’s no button provided for that. The programme supports us to forget all about the existence of common courtesies.

So we should not be at all stunned that such fundamental abuses of corporate strength are themselves trickling down to infect the people who use and are exposed to these stages’ skewed norms.

Viral episodes like #PlaneBae demonstrate that the same sense of entitlement to private information is being actively passed onto the users these pulpits prey on and feed off — and is then getting rafter out, like radioactivity, to harm the people around them.

The damage is collective when societal standards are undermined.


Social media’s ubiquity means almost everyone works in marketing these days. Most beings are selling their own lives — posting photographs of their pets, their girls, the latte they had this morning, the hipster gym where they work out — having been nudged to perform this unpaid proletariat by the pulpits that profit from it.

The irony is that most of this work is being done for free. Merely the stages are getting paid. Though there are some people making a very modern living; the brand-new engender of’ life sharers’ who willingly polish, pack and upright their professional world as a firebrand of aspiration life marketing.

Social media’s gift to the world is that anyone can be a self-styled model now, and every overtaking time a mode shoot for hire — thanks to the largess of very accessible social media stages plying almost anyone who wants it with their own self-promoting shopwindow in the world. Plus all the promotional implements they could ever need.

Just step up to the glass and shoot.

And then your vacation beauty spot becomes simply another backdrop for the next aspirational selfie. Although those aquamarine oceans can’t be allowed to lessen or disrupt photo-coifed tress , nor sand get in the camera kit. In all such cases, the makeup took hours to apply and there’s the next selfie to take…

What does the unchronicled life of these professional stage performers look like? A mess of preparation for projecting perfection, probably, with life’s quotidian business substance higgledy piggledy into the margins — where they actually sweat and work to deliver the lie of a lifestyle dream.

Because these are also forgery — beautiful hoaxes, but forges nonetheless.

We live in an age of entitled pretence. And while it may be totally fine for an individual to construct a imaginary narrative that garbs up the substance of their existence, it’s certainly not okay to gather anyone else into your pantomime. Not without asking permission first.

But the problem is that social media is now so powerfully omnipresent its center of gravity is actively trying to pull everyone in — and its antisocial impacts routinely spill out and over the rest of us. And they rarely if ever ask for consent.

What about the people who don’t want their lives to be appropriated as digital windowdressing? Who weren’t asking for their identity to be held up for public intake? Who don’t want to participate in this game at all — neither to personally profit from it , nor to have their privacy trampled by it?

The problem is the push and pull of pulpits against privacy had now become so aggressive, so virulent, that societal norms that protect and interest us all — like empathy, like respect — are getting mashed and sucked in.

The ugliness is especially visible in these’ viral’ times when other people’s lives are grasped and destroyed voraciously on the hoof — as yet more content for rapacious feeds.


Think very of the fitness personality who posted a creepshot+ commentary about a less slim being working out at their gym.

Or the YouTuber parents who monetize videos of their girls’ distress.

Or the men who post creepshots of women devouring in public — and try to claim it’s an online art project rather than what it actually is: A privacy irreverence and misogynistic attack.

Or, on a public street in London one day, I watched a couple of giggling teenage girls watching a boy at a bus stop who was clearly mentally unwell. Pulling out a smartphone, one daughter whoosh to the other:” We’ve got to throw this on YouTube .”

For scaffolds built by technologists without conclude for anything other than growth, everything is a potential spectacle. Everything is a potential post.

So they press on their customers to think less. And they profit at society’s expense.

It’s only now, after social media has embedded itself everywhere, that scaffolds are being announced out for their moral vacuum; for construct organisations that encourage abject mindlessness in users — and serve up content so somber it represents a form of visual cancer.


Human have always told narrations. Weaving our own narrations is both how we communicate and how we make sense of personal experience — causing tell out of occurrences that are frequently disorderly, random, even chaotic.

The human condition requires a degree of pattern-spotting for survival’s sake; so we can pick our individual route out of the gloom.

But programmes are exploiting that innate side of our persona. And we, as individuals, need to get much, considerably better at recognizing what they’re doing to us.

We need to recognize how they are manipulating us; what they are encouraging us to do — with each new feature nudge and dark pattern design choice.

We need to understand their underlying pluck. The fact they profit by setting us as sleuths against each other. We need to wake up, personally and collectively, to social media’s antisocial impacts.

Perspective should not have to come at the expense of other people getting hurt.

This week the women whose privacy was thoughtlessly repackaged as public recreation when she was labelled and broadcast as #PlaneBae — and who has suffered harassment and yet more unwelcome attention as a direct answer — opened a statement to Business Insider.

“# PlaneBae is not a relationship — it is a digital-age cautionary tale about privacy, identity, ethics and consent ,” she writes.” Please continue to respect my privacy, and my desire to remain anonymous .”

And as a strategy to push against the disruptive incursions of social media, recollecting to respect people’s privacy is a great home to start.

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