I would consider myself pretty tech-savvy. I by no means am a technological expert, but I have had my fair share of phone calls from both sets of grandparents asking how to do this and that on their new iPhones and MacBooks. I have even had my roommates ask me to install their printers because I’m “the one that’s good with techy stuff.” How is it that I arrived at this place, though?
I got my first Xanga account when I was in fifth grade. I believe my username was “michaelluver13” in honor of my very serious elementary boyfriend. Next came AOL Instant Messenger. This is where I first learned to code, even though I did not know at the time that this is what I was doing. You could always find an “♥” at the end of my away message. Pretty soon I started to hear about Facebook from my older sister, who I always wanted to be just like, but would never admit it to her. She was in High school, which I’m pretty sure at this point you were supposed to at least be High School aged to create an account. So for the first time I figured out which year I needed to say I was born in order to lie about my age and get an account. I also found myself lying to my mom about just how many accounts I was keeping up with online.
My familiarity with the online world at a very early age has clearly shaped who I am today. I actually see the effects every day. I do not think I have asked anyone for help concerning anything technological in a very long time. I like to find the shortcuts, and I like to figure this stuff out on my own because I can. That can be as simple as double tapping the uppercase button on my iPhone to capitalize an entire message, or as complicated as the three finger swipe up on my MacBook trackpad to view all of my open windows. Despite the fact that these are seemingly small qualities I now have, they play a huge part in who I am and what I can do online. I did very well in a computer science class my senior year of high school, and while I in no way want to pursue a career that surrounds technology, I know I could do if it I needed to. Without all of my prior Internet experience, I would be hard pressed to catch on to the lingo and keep up with the ever-changing digital world.
One major change I have seen over time online is specifically altered advertising for the user. Either this technique did not exist in my early Internet-usage years, or I was just too young to notice. Whatever the case, in recent months, I have come across more specifically placed advertisements than ever before, and frankly it is terrifying to me. One of the most frightening is one that I have come across on Facebook. Granted I do have listed that I am currently a student at UT, but it never ceases to give me the chills when I get ads for apps about UT, or pop ups for West Campus housing. These people know where I go to school, and they know where I live. The Internet has a very clear history of everything online purchase I have ever made, or even thought about making, and it is quick to remind me of that on every site I frequent. They just know too much. My mom has always made a habit of reminding me what I put online. I used to take her advice very seriously, but that was only because I did not want to show up on the news as the next young girl to be cyber-stalked and stolen. That, however, doesn’t seem to be the issue anymore. Privacy is very much dead, and at this point I don’t see what we, as online participants, can do about it. The information is out there; delete does not exist anymore; this is a terrifying place to be.
If someone wants to know who I am or where I am, I fully believe they can do so. At this point I don’t think there is anything I can do to protect the privacy of my identity because I have already put too much online. Ever since I became a minor conspiracy theorist, however, I have been more careful with what I put out there for people to find. This is nothing like my Xanga days when all I could think about was my next song lyric to post. That fact has greatly affected my production online. I frequent certain sites like Facebook and Twitter regularly, but besides pictures and reading tweets, there is not much that I publish that will help anyone know much about me. My online identity is only formed through the sites I visit and the online shopping I do.
=So maybe, all things considered, we are beating them at their own game. Yeah, sometimes the tailored ads completely work. I see the word Nordstrom on my screen all the time, and it’s always my first spot to hit when I go to the mall. But they don’t know that it’s not the only spot because I haven’t shared that information. It still stands true that the less I produce, the less they know. The less I produce, the less tailored my Internet experience will be. The less I produce, the harder they have to work to figure out who I am and use it against me.