Growing up, I was taught that privacy is not something that one takes for granted. My parents were raised in the Soviet Union during an oppressive time in which the citizens were not given many rights and the government intervened in personal matters. By having rights taken away solely on the basis of religion, my family kept as much information to themselves as they possibly could. As soon as my parents moved to America, they made sure to stay as secure as possible and to not disclose any information that did not need to be shared. Because of this, I was raised not in fear, but in ignorance, of how much of my personal life is truly shared on the internet.
I was 12 years old when I first got an email address and 18 years old when I created my Facebook account. My parents were never against me getting social media accounts, but by them not having one themselves, I wasn’t pressured nor surrounded by it growing up. Although I missed out on a lot by not having a MySpace or Facebook account in my teen years, I am eternally grateful that there is not much evidence of my awkward, angsty adolescence online. Being raised in an upper-middle class lifestyle, I was fortunate to be able to afford and have access to various communication technologies. However, it was almost a waste considering I didn’t have a big enough need to use them very often. My parents often always promoted me to use a book for research rather than the internet, gave me board games to play instead of an iPad, X-box, or Playstation, and took me to the stores rather than online shop. I didn’t think anything of this until I started high school and started seeing iPhones all around me taking the place of good, old-fashioned flip phones. This didn’t bother me until it started affecting my schoolwork. Many in-class assignments included us texting in our answers, which I had to log into a slow desktop computer in order to do. I was also not able to take pictures on information provided in class, which would come to harm me later on when I was working on the assignment at home. Finally, heaven’s guardian came to my rescue and I was able to receive an iPhone in the 12th grade. It helped me a lot with my schoolwork and homework, but it was a bit depressing to see that the only social interaction I had on it, aside from texting, was Words with Friends. This depression and lack of online social interaction came to a halt during my freshman year of college when I decided that I couldn’t keep up with not having a Facebook anymore, causing me to make a spur of the moment decision to create an account.
It’s been almost a year since I’ve made my account and now I can honestly say that I was missing out on a lot. However, I realized that with this increase in social interaction online comes a tradeoff bigger than imagined with privacy. I hate to say that my parents were right, but they were. Through the ads I’m given on Facebook, I am able to see what type of persona I give off to others through the private information that I am giving away. If a random person was to see the information that my search engines and cookies save, they would be able to tell that I am a young, white middle-class female with a love for shopping, wiener dogs, and watching television. Not only is it concerning for me on how accurate it is, but it is terrifying to see the extent to which it is true. All of the advertisements that I receive on my Facebook feed have to do with promoting deals at various retail stores, which I love shopping at, as well as TV shows and movies in the comedy genre. Every time I see these advertisements, I am reminded about how although my parents took the idea of protecting their privacy to the extreme, they were ultimately right. If just a computer is able to store so much information about me varying from what foods I like to eat all the way to my school schedule, then any other private information such as my credit card number and when I am and am not home can be figured out.
Although many aspects of the digital world scare me, I have become so dependent on it that I have no other choice but to use it. It is intimidating to see how even though I am just a small fish in a big sea, that there is enough information about me out there to span the entire universe. However, in the end there really was nothing I could do but succumb to the social media world. My parents did not grow up with the freedom to share their information with the world, but people in my generation did. Therefore, these opportunities must be utilized or else one will be left behind.