Opinion: Does Social Media Encourage Privacy Invasion?

I love Snapchat. It is the funniest way to start my day. One of the guys I follow on there is drop dead hilarious. He’s a naturally funny guy anyway, but when it comes to Snapchat, he is constantly up to new antics. His snaps usually feature his friends and many family members living their normal, daily lives as he basically antagonizes the heck out of them.

Ever the flamboyant and snarky jokester, he’s pretty much known for snapping people during their most vulnerable, embarrassing moments (including people drooling all over themselves while they sleep). He also likes to wander around the city engaging random colorful characters (often drunks and prostitutes) in playful conversation. His brand of humor often consists of teasing people, encouraging silly behavior and getting a rise out of his “victims” in hopes of provoking a comedic response. He often says things that would be considered rude under normal circumstances, but he’s actually a nice guy who simply likes pushing people’s buttons for fun.

For instance, there was the time when he was sitting with his mom in their house. His mom was wearing a brightly colored dress, so he pointed the phone in her face and asked her if it was a “muumuu”. After grumbling something to him about “get me off of that camera”, he continued the snaps, but proceeded to tell her that she looked like a rainbow…the largest rainbow he’s ever seen. Did the dress look like a rainbow? Honestly? Yes. His mom, being a heavier set woman, did not seem to appreciate his remarks—-especially since they were made on Snapchat. However, she rolled her eyes and went on with whatever she’d been doing as though she were completely used to his ridiculous behavior. The poor lady!

Let’s not forget about the time that he went to a family barbecue. He pointed the camera towards one of his female relatives (who was completely oblivious) and said, “Ugggly.” That was it. End of snap. You would have had to hear the tone of his voice and know his personality to understand that he’s not as much of a jerk as it sounds. Even when what he is saying is fundamentally rude as all get out, it’s still usually really funny because of how he says it. You can tell he doesn’t have a truly mean spirit and that it’s only ever said in jest. All the same, if I were the girl he’d said that about, he would not be my favorite cousin.

This guy was right back at it with all his “jokes” this weekend when he spent some time teasing his young niece (probably about nine years old). I won’t as detailed as I could be, but he basically chased her through the streets of his neighborhood as she ran and cried her head off. She had snuck out of the house late at night to buy snacks at the nearby convenience store, and here he was filming the entire act. The more she panicked, the more he would add fuel to the fire, prompting her to cry even harder. She was scared that she was going to be found out by her grandmother (his mom), so he kept saying she needed to run. Even once they returned to the house, he snapped himself pretending to tell on her, which of course, threw her into yet another screaming fit. It sounds mean, but I assure you, it was hilarious. I’d be willing to bet that she’ll wait until morning to get those Doritos and Skittles next time.

I share all of this with you to illustrate the idea that slightly off-color comments and gestures can still be funny—-depending on the circumstances. Perhaps most people would agree that it can be humorous to poke fun at our own family members. I tease my relatives mercilessly at times, but there is a definite time and place for everything. I wouldn’t poke fun at people in a public setting unless it was very apparent that I was simply joking and the joke itself was pretty tame. Intentionally saying mean things about people simply isn’t my gig, but neither is shoving phone cameras in people’s faces.

All in all, I love a good, light hearted joke. I mean, who doesn’t? However, what happens when a “joke” is simply downright mean and everyone is aware of the punchline…except for the person targeted? What if you don’t even know the person you’re laughing at in the first place? Well, this is something I’ve been pondering since seeing a weekend snap posted by the same guy I mentioned earlier. He was at the mall when he took a snap of an overweight girl walking past some stores with her friends. She was wearing denim shorts that were skin tight and super short. Since the shorts kept wanting to ride up, she had to keep reaching around to pull them down as she walked. What was his response? “Naaasty. Whale. Killer whale.” One of his female friends could be heard laughing in the background.

Okay, sue me. I laughed. Rest assured that I wasn’t laughing at the girl though. This guy simply has a criminal sense of comedic timing. His tone of voice simply kills me sometimes. Another part of me laughed merely out of surprise that he would post something like that. I’ve never seen him film a complete stranger without their knowledge (let alone someone attempting to remedy a wedgie), so I was fairly taken aback by what I saw.

The laughs quickly died off as I started to feel extremely bad for the girl in question. Primarily, I thought what he said was terrible. People, of any size, need not be singled out and compared to a marine animal. It’s just rude—-joke or no joke. When he made fun of his mom, that was sort of one thing. He called her a rainbow, not Shamu. Though I know this guy isn’t the devil incarnate and is constantly saying/doing things merely for shock value, I also didn’t like the idea of him posting the clip on social media for all to see. The whole thing kind of rubbed me the wrong way and got me to wondering: Is social media rendering the entire concept of personal privacy extinct? And furthermore, does social media encourage the invasion of people’s privacy?

In a day and age when preschoolers own iPhones before they know how to read and pets have their own Instagram accounts, I think it would be an extreme understatement to say that technology plays a significant (if not dominant) role in today’s society. Though I greatly appreciate all of the gadgets and resources we have available to us, I often find myself gravely concerned about the path we are traveling down. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for technological advancements. More specifically, social media plays an ever burgeoning role in the way we stay in touch, share ideas, spread information and acquire knowledge—I get it. Though I’m still not the biggest fan of using it in my own life, I fully acknowledge the potential value social media outlets can provide to professional organizations and individuals alike. My primary concern is that technology may be evolving faster than our own species’ ability to responsibly (and kindly) handle it.

When it comes to privacy, I am a fairly private person. Sure, I share details about my life on here, but it is nothing in comparison to what countless other people reveal on the Internet. You’re never going to see pictures of my daughter’s first dance recital (not that I have one to show) and I would never tweet that I am going to be at a specific place at a specific time. This is not to say that it is bad for people to post info or share videos of whatever it is that is going on in their lives. I mean, if you want to share footage of you shaving your back or post in-depth details of your last ten bowel movements, go for it. I’m totally living for it. Do you. The thing that is starting to bother me is how often I’m seeing various individuals posting pictures and videos of other people to their social media accounts—-without their knowledge or express permission. More specifically, people are using these posts to make derogatory comments about the subjects of these photos/videos. I hate to say it, but I’m seeing more and more of this each and every day.

Whether someone is posting the likeness of an unsuspecting individual with the intent of making fun of them or not, I don’t think it is a fair or acceptable thing to do. Regardless of the popularity of social media, some people work very hard to stay off of the Internet, or at least, limit their dealings with it. When you snap a picture of someone you don’t even know and post it to social media, you’re really infringing upon their privacy and rights as a person. I mean, this is equally the case if you’re posting pictures/video of people you do know without their knowledge, but to involve a complete stranger seems like a whole new level of privacy invasion.

Let’s go back to what I was saying about the guy I follow on Snapchat. I genuinely think he was dead wrong to film that girl. Point blank period. I don’t care if it was for laughs or if he truly was trying to be a jerk, he really had no business in the world snapping a completely random person walking through the mall without their knowledge. It would have been one thing if she just so happened to walk by, but to purposely focus the camera directly on her? That’s not right to me at all. Even if he had said that she was the most beautiful girl in the world, I still don’t think it would have been appropriate to film her (yet I know people still do it).

I’m sure some people might argue, “She knew she shouldn’t have had those shorts on and that people could potentially talk about her. What’s the difference between people seeing her at the mall or on Snapchat? She’s still pulling at her shorts and people can still see her doing it.” Well, okay…maybe so. I will agree that anytime you go out in public—-wearing short shorts or otherwise—-people may talk about you. You could be short, tall, thin, overweight, blue, black, white, yellow or purple…if someone wants to criticize you, they’ll find (or make up) something to talk about. However, whether that girl thought she looked good in the outfit or not, she knew she was going to be seen by people at the mall—-not every Tom, Dick and Harry on Snapchat.

Would the knowledge that people would see her on Snapchat have changed her outfit choice? Probably not. However, she might not have dared to dig her shorts out of her behind if she thought someone would distribute it online where they can replay and resend it over and over again. When you go out in public and do something, it takes place in a solitary moment of time and then it’s over. There’s (usually) no record of it outside of eye witness accounts and your own memory. When people are running around with their phones taking photos/videos and posting things on social media, things get spread around like wildfire and never die.

People tweet and retweet.

Memes are made.

Folks take screenshots and text them around.

Okay, maybe wearing tiny shorts isn’t the end of the world, but there have been many other mortifying instances where what was captured was far more serious. Let’s take the case of former Playboy model, Dani Mathers, into consideration. Dani Mathers was found guilty of ‘invasion of privacy’ (a misdemeanor) and was recently sentenced to community service and probation. She had posted a photo on Snapchat of a naked elderly lady who was innocently changing her clothes in an LA Fitness locker room. There are bad decisions and then there’s this. What on Earth would make a grown woman think it was even remotely okay to snap a photo of a person who is changing their clothes?

Mathers’ defense was pretty piss poor too. Allegedly, she had only intended to send it to a friend, but had “accidentally” shared it with everyone. As though that makes it any better! You realistically shouldn’t be taking and/or sending photos of any naked people without their knowledge. Eh. I guess she had to say something. The caption that she added to the post added insult to injury, which is probably why the book was thrown right at her. I’m sure the victim in this case was not only hurt by the former model’s body shaming comments, but downright humiliated by the fact that other people (including men) saw something that should have been kept within the four walls of that locker room.

This actually reminds me of something else I saw over the weekend on Snapchat. A very popular Youtuber posted a snap of a child (he appeared to be about six years old) sitting inside of a grocery basket in front of her in the checkout line. He was simply sitting there minding his own business, but he was sort of staring at her. At first, I didn’t really understand what the heck she was filming him for, but then I realized that he was in the store with no shoes on. Even after looking in the cart, I couldn’t find a single trace of a shoe. I’m guessing that she wanted to show people that he was missing his shoes. Either that or she was wondering why such a large child would be sitting in the tiny basket to begin with. As puzzling as those things may (or may not) be, who gave her the right to snap someone else’s child? Filming random kids sure doesn’t seem very kosher. The child’s guardian was nowhere to be seen in-frame, but it makes me wonder if they would have been very happy to know that this girl filmed their child and shared it with thousands of her followers. Probably not.

I really wish people would stop and think before being so quick to post things to social media. You never know the damage you could cause to a person by taking photos or video of them and posting it somewhere. But perhaps that is the whole thing…perhaps people just don’t care about the consequences of their actions. A screenshot sent here and a video clip shared there…maybe none of it is a big deal. However, it makes me wonder if they would still have the “share and share alike” mentality if they were the ones being swapped around like a communicable disease.

I know that some people post every aspect of their living, breathing lives on the Internet and probably don’t care what gets shared or where. All the same, when did it become so commonplace to exploit people you don’t even know simply because you can? I don’t know. I just wanted to talk about this and see what others thought about these kinds of occurrences. Is the posting of random people the new normal? I would like to view stuff like this as an isolated incident, but based on what I’ve seen, I’m starting to think that the invasion of people’s privacy is going to get far worse before it ever gets better.

But…that is just my opinion.