A week back, a young Indian girl was the toast of her native country with her being selected as the first Woman President of the Oxford Student Union in the UK. The accolade may not have mattered to a lot of people around the world but for the bright girl it was a indeed a moment to cherish. However, today we get a news item mentioning that the poor girl has resigned from the appointment after being roasted by media trolls over some stupid and ancient unthoughtful posts on Social media which could be construed as racist or insensitive.
Similar was the case with the Prime Minister of Canada who still has not stopped apologising for a ‘massive blind spot in his privileged life’ when he dressed up as a blackface in his younger party-loving days. The previous US President was also no stranger to social controversies which gained instant digital prominence, notwithstanding the fact that he never admitted to the majority of such accusations and rolled all of them under a singular carpet of fake news.
These instances are just the tip of the iceberg. Almost every celebrity or powerful person is digitally probed and dissected today for any possible misdemeanours in the past, irrespective of the intent or innocence behind the act at the time of the occurrence. Not only the high and mighty but each one of us is also being digitally tracked 24*7*365 as long as we are interacting or coming in contact with a digital device wittingly or otherwise.
The established fact is that digital media is following each one of us all the time through our mobiles, laptops, cameras, recorders and what have you. Any kind of information that is once digitized is possible to be retrieved when someone sets upon doing so. Every message that you send, every forward that you share, every movement that you make, every desirable and undesirable item that you read or glance through, every opinion or choice that you express and every purchase that you make is getting recorded in some server around the world. Photographs clicked in private moments or captured by voyeuristic hidden cameras in changing rooms or public spaces, conversations recorded by friends and foes, opinions expressed on social media platforms- nothing is spared. You may cry or cringe but digital footprints are being inadvertently made (or otherwise as well) and they are never going to go way. Eerie as it may sound, digital information is almost as good as being cast in stone or sometimes even worse.
Newspapers are filled with news of unsuspecting people across the age and social spectrum being digitally exploited, blackmailed and defrauded. While the law and policing agencies are a few steps behind the digital revolution, the unlawful and cheats are well ahead of the game. No one is safe from digital exploitation, irrespective of position or standing. By shifting from one platform to the other (WhatsApp to Signal, android to apple etc), we are just psychologically trying to lessen the impact of our digital exposure. But just as water will sooner or later flow out through a sieve, so will digital information. Such is the nature of this medium.
We all know this stuff in a general way but we often choose to be extremely careless in our daily lives. Digital media is extremely seductive because of the convenience, power, speed and titillation it provides. Over a period of time, intent may change but the digital impressions remains intact. Each one of us has a dark side to our personality and a cupboard full of such skeletons. As the Snowden case has revealed, no person or organisation or even nation state is insulated. The day your success, presence or actions are perceived to be a cause of envy or threat, your glass houses will be remotely invaded for information best concealed. As the Toolkit protagonists are probably realizing, instant success can also mean instant downfall and catastrophic outcomes.
It is said that there are only two kinds of pilots. One- who have joined for a wrong runway sometime in their aviation career and the second- those who will do so. The third kind of course are those who will repeat the same mistake again. Similarly, all of us are equally vulnerable digitally and will sooner or later make such mistakes. Digital embraces can be fatal since privacy is not private any more and security is just a relative concept. Innocence, inexperience, regrets and remorse are not understood by this little-understood hydra. Unfortunately, unlike the church confessional boxes, there is no mechanism for seeking forgiveness from digital sins. Abundant caution and awareness is therefore the call of the hour. The adage ‘Look before you leap’ has undoubtedly changed to ‘Think before you tweet’. So, reduce your ‘digital sins’ to the maximum possible lest they come back to haunt you when you least expect it. Our digital exploitation and manipulation is inevitable!
Wishing you well,
P.S Please share this with your near and dear ones as almost all of us are digitally connected today and thus vulnerable by association and affiliation.
First published at: https://seekmediation.com/2021/02/19/digital-sins/