I think that quite simply we live in an open world, with much less control of privacy than we once had before the days of social media. I think in today’s society its hard to find anyone who doesn’t have a digital presence. My father is among that rare population. Other than possibly finding his current or previous addresses, you can’t so much as pull up a google image of the guy. He doesn’t even have the desire to peruse social media through his wife’s account to check up on people. He is simply disinterested in social media and having a virtual identity.
As far off the virtual spectrum that my dad is, it doesn’t mean he isn’t vulnerable to obtaining a digital image, even if he doesn’t want one. I thought about people like my dad (who desire to be “off the grid”) when reading about the “#Plane Bae” saga that took place earlier this summer.
an unsuspecting woman boarded a plane from New York to Dallas and switched seats with a woman named Rosey Blair, who had asked to sit next to her boyfriend. The woman ended up with a new seatmate, Euan Holden, a former professional soccer player turned model, and chatted with him throughout the flight. What she didn’t know was that Blair, seated behind her, was surreptitiously photographing her and Holden’s every interaction, recording it all in a Twitter thread that went viral and garnered the hashtag #PlaneBae.
In a response the victim said “I did not ask for and do not seek attention. #PlaneBae is not a romance—it is a digital-age cautionary tale about privacy, identity, ethics and consent.”
This could happen to anyone. It’s outrageous to think, that even a man like my dad, could be launched right off the grid and go viral in an instant, without his consent.
As a social media user for the last 15 or so years, I’ve come to understand (or better yet accept) that my privacy is limited at best. As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve cleaned up my digital image over the years. Chapters 1 of It’s Complicated: The Social Network Lives of Teens, by Danah Boyd (2014) talks about knowing your audience and “Context Collapse”.
A context collapse occurs when people are forced to grapple simultaneously with otherwise unrelated social contexts that are rooted in different norms and seemingly demand different social responses. For example, some people might find it quite awkward to run into their former high school teacher while drinking with their friends at a bar. These con-text collapses happen much more frequently in networked publics.
When asked to consider if I have ever had an experience with Context Collapse, the answer is yes, many, and they still happen on occasion. This is the result of having people like my grandparents who created a co-facebook account to keep current with all the happenings in their family’s lives. Cute in theory, but navigating boundaries around social media is complicated, and you can’t exactly unfriend Grandpa. And so on every single ting that materializes on my facebook I inevitably get a comment or like. As a 33 year old working professional I’d say my context collapse risk is low, and innocent, but doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.