Reflections on Intensive I: The Social Web and Privacy

Privacy Humour: Video RentingLast weekend was my first intensive of the year at BGI. I decided to join the Social Web for Social Change class with the intent to become more skillful at using the web to influence people to toward consciously living in harmony with others and the planet.

A considerable portion of our class discussion was dedicated to online privacy and the implications of sharing ourselves via social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. It became evident that we have yet to see the implications on careers and life paths with so many peoples’ lives publicly recorded for all to see. With the majority of social networking sites’ default behaviour set to show most of your information unless you intentionally disable or limit access, your life and connections are available to anyone with a web browser. Is this a good thing? Personally, this concerns me and so I have remained a lurker, not actively or minimally participating. Not that I am really doing anything subversive that warrants concern but I my personal comfort line is sharing via this and other blogs. I think there is too much potential for abuse. Perhaps I have watched too many movies that many folks dub ‘conspiracy’ but I can see this information being intentionally used against people who are actively trying to bring about a peaceful and democratic world. For example, the Chinese government has requested the email of political activists using Yahoo mail and used this information to incarcerate those with dissenting political views. Yikes. Big Brother is more than watching. I’m sure its happening in this part of the world but more under the radar. All the Patriot Act fanatics in the US need to do is suspect that you are up to “terrorist” activities and they can legally access any of your online information.

If you are one who has contentious issues with how the dominant leaders are conducting themselves in whatever domain concerns you and you want to be outspoken about it online then an anonymous profile (remember Clark Kent) is definitely the way to go. It takes a concerted effort and a significant level of skill to effectively go down this path – one that I have not personally trodden as I don’t think I am outwardly critical enough to raise any alarms – but is nonetheless available to those called to such work.

Rather to confronting such a scenario, I think my energy can be more effectively used to influence change by, as Gandhi so eloquently put: “be the change you wish to see in the world”. I want to learn to send the message out: “let’s do _________ instead”. Then I am using my vital energy to create rather than resist – a more more life affirming activity.

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