The trials and tribulations of widespread technology use


FILE- In this Wednesday, April 11, 2018, file photo, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to testify before a House Energy and Commerce hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. Zuckerberg repeatedly assured lawmakers Tuesday and Wednesday that he didn’t believe the company violated its 2011 agreement with the Federal Trade Commission to overhaul its privacy practices. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

The ongoing controversy surrounding Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s enabling of Cambridge Analytica and other data collectors brings the issue of ethical technology use to the forefront of public scrutiny. Provided that we use it responsibly and large corporations keep our best interests at heart, technological advancement holds merit. However, we must acknowledge each side’s complicity in technological misuse; large corporations have intrusive and shortsighted tendencies, and it takes more than a mere button press or mouse click for the average user to operate technology prudently.

Social media platforms and other technological companies must prevent undesirable outcomes, including Russia’s Facebook and Twitter hacking during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign period. We should employ common sense to identify reliable/verified accounts and safe websites (e.g. distinguishing “fhdfhujejuhy” from “Fox News☑;” on second thought, perhaps these two accounts pose striking similarities, but you get my point, right?). However, the risk of access to illegitimate accounts and websites shouldn’t be present in the first place, nor should financial profit be the primary motivator to permit careless practices. Certainly, data collection provides benefits, for it measures trends among certain demographics and gathers feedback to improve upon technological flaws, but it must minimize harm to certain groups, undertake low risk-high reward ventures exclusively and be less invasive.

Furthermore, programs like Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) have positive intentions yet little influence, partly because students lack the motivation and/or wisdom to ponder its messages seriously and apply them to real life. As our First Lady demonstrates, immoral online behavior can be difficult to curtail (and its most severe victims should contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255). So regardless of its potential effectiveness, prospective online users should receive education regarding ethical and precautious technology use. Besides, who wants to spend extra money on computer antivirus software? As a kid, I was fairly reckless regarding technological precaution, leading to viral infection of many a computer. In short, technological corporations should facilitate responsible online behavior and thus prevent imitation of my youthful naivety.

Not only corporations’ carelessness but also our own obtuseness undermine technological efficiency. Self-control remains critical to the protection of sensitive information/material and inhibition of problematic sentiments. Before creating salacious content, consider the ramifications of its widespread release, as naked photos of celebrities and high school students leak too frequently. If you seek bodily admiration from peers, then mirrors and your own two eyes satisfy that purpose. Unless you’re hosting a Chatroulette livestream, please strum your instruments and measure them in private concerts. Lastly, your anonymity shouldn’t encourage you to express insensitive thoughts to a vast online audience, as such an action may prove consequential.

I hate to burst your bubble, but other people don’t pay as much attention to you as you’d like to believe; they focus on themselves too much to care (in psychological terms, we refer to this phenomenon as the “imaginary audience” or “spotlight effect”). So, whether online or in-person, please don’t fret about “embarrassing” imperfections or expect to grab someone’s attention with some outlandish statements or eye-popping getup (unless perhaps you’re a popular, established online persona). Besides, we’re overly reliant upon social media to convey information and receive social gratification. There’s no need to publicize every aspect of your life to a vast online audience, especially if it consists mostly of strangers (i.e. your thousand or so distant family members and “friends” from your hometown/high school/college with several mutual friends, along with your hundred or so truly close friends and family members). As charming as their obscenity-laden, grammatically oblivious messages and promiscuous profile pictures may be, we also must ignore friend requests from those whom I like to call “spam models.” In similar fashion to that of technical support scammers, these seemingly well-meaning individuals may compromise the security of your technological devices and personal accounts, so please prohibit your desperation for attention from clouding your judgment. Provided that technological corporations and online users act considerately, modern technology use ultimately remains highly ethical.

Michael Katz is a contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email  

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