By William Bixby
Men, as a species, knows more now than they have ever known in their history. The cumulative accrual of knowledge because of past experiences is always growing, but people of this generation have access to more information than ever before. The Golden Age of Technology allows people to protract information about any subject from the internet at the push of a button. What once took desire, effort, resources, and hours of research, now takes minutes to attain. The Information Age has given people easier routes to publicity and quicker accessibility to current affairs, data, and to the world around them, but at what cost? Privacy, in the way it was once understood, no longer exists.
The internet is the world’s best invention. It and other forms of electronic media have ushered in a new era of entertainment and news access. With the widespread availability of video recorders, cameras, and smart phones the world of news has reached a new revolution. Celebrity is suddenly one well placed lens away from the common man. With reality television “stars,” and cult phenomena like Youtube.com, any person can reach fame and moderate riches by simply being entertaining. Whereas, in past eras, television personalities had to be skilled and experienced, the new generation only has to be compelling. In fact, almost the entire reality show gamut is comprised of people that have laughably failed both socially and in whatever task they have been assigned by the show. On most of the shows on MTV, college age kids are paid to be fully inebriated for most of the day and perform the F’s for a viewing audience (fussing, fighting, and a four letter word that your mom would be ashamed if you knew). Because every generation is a little less ignorant of the world around them and substantially more accepting of previously contemptuous behaviors than the preceding generation, people are much less apt to ostracize a person for socially unacceptable behavior. And congruently with that concept, half of the current reality stars gained acclaim for atrocious behavior instead for being well-liked by the public. In this matter, any press really is good press, and fame is closer to everyone than ever before.
But that fame often causes the demise a person’s private life. Privacy is being completely annihilated by the news revolution. Though historians of past eras knew various intimate details of the celebrities of their time, the general public was completely oblivious to what those celebrities were doing. During the 30‘s-60‘s, no one knew that Babe Ruth was a drunk, that Ty Cobb was a bigot, or that Pres. John F. Kennedy was a philanderer. The newspapers, then the sole type of media, worked with celebrities and these stories were supplanted by other news-worthy tales. Positive public opinion was more important to newspapers and to the public than truth in reporting, and it protected the privacy of the stars and sometimes protected them from themselves. There is a reason that child stars inevitably, use drugs, act erratically, and/or die young. The pressure of the public is always on them. Their only solitary moments are those stolen away in the privacy of their own homes. And with new, ever-changing surveillance equipment and computer and cell phone hacking, even their homes are not fully protected. New forms of media have robbed the rich and famous of their privacy, but not only they are affected by it. The working class is slowly losing its civil liberties too. The average person has their image taken 11 times per day without their consent or knowledge. That means that, though not being sought after by adoring fans, the common person is being photographed almost bi-hourly. Celebrities part with their normal lives and relative anonymity to gain money and adoration, but there is no benefit for the blue or white collar worker. Those people recorded while working at their jobs or when visiting banks have no idea that they are being watched. And even those who readily accept the scrutinizing of the media are not fully prepared for the intrusiveness of reporters or the speed at which an ill-conceived comment or inappropriate gesture caught on camera can reach the internet. Multimedia tools are revolutionizing the world with instant accessibility to anything and are taking the news into a more efficient and effective era, but it is also robbing the public of one its most basic freedoms, the freedom of confidentiality.
The progression of electronic media has made the acquirement of information both attainable and convenient for everyone. Advances in the field of technology have grown exponentially and will likely continue to help improve society and make news even more accessible, but at what cost? Apparently, the cost of advancement in technology is your privacy.