Friday, May 3, 2013

Permanent as a Tattoo

At the first NetHui I had gone with a focus toward cybersafety. I went with this attitude that bullying is bullying and so the same rules apply - it needs to be stomped on immediately. Less of the "harden up" attitude and more "We will not tolerate bullying".

This isn't to be confused with the very PC "zero bullying" policy I've seen in inaction at some schools. I mean, the absolute, "if I ever see that sort of disrespect ever pointed at another person from you there are going to be serious consequences" kind of stomping on it. The "that language is not only disrespectful, but gives everyone else an excuse to disrespect you" kind of approach.

I was wrong. Oh so very wrong. the problem is that the medium is very different.

Computers have generally been a refuge for those of us who have a little bit of trouble socially in which case, bullying within this refuge/medium can have a bigger effect on the recipient than in the playground - where, if they're bullied on a regular basis, they probably have some coping mechanisms (like disappearing to the library or hanging out with like minded people in order to offer an island of support)... the medium is the message.

Graffiti in the toilets, a carved up desk lid can all be removed... An uttered comment in the playground can be forgotten or ignored. Or can they? More on this a little later...

Firstly though, that bullying on the net can not be removed. Is it on Facebook? Well.. chances are, it's now the property of Facebook. Those images you think you've removed? It's just hidden. It's still there! Facebook own that property and so it's up to them as to whether they chose to delete it - not you.

But worse than this: You couldn't steal a handbag right? But what if you could make a copy that handbag? So everyone can take a copy of whatever. If I'm viewing a web page, it's not unavailable to everyone else. Instead, all that content is copied to my computer (yep... viewing pages is essentially copying). So not only can I not delete that data, everyone who's seen it has probably taken a copy of that data (the exception being a group of friends and I all sat around a single computer).

So there's a certain permanence to the information.

It's getting worse. We've got the possibility of augmented reality becoming mainstream in the very near future. Imagine it. Someone walking around with a pair of glasses (Baidu Eye, Google Glasses etc.) could have instant access to your online profile before even meeting you - using face recognition (though I think we're still a little way off this at the moment. There's a difference between face recognition and face recognition i.e. recognising something is a face and recognising who a person is based upon their face).

But is this all that different from the traditional schoolyard bully? The Internet is an equal opportunity ground for bullying. So while the bully's in my day were generally physically intimidating, nowadays they don't have to be. You too can be a bully online! And while it's undoubtedly quite different from school yard bullying, it should be recognised that school yard bullying has long term effects as well.

I made some silly little comment about someone's posterior a couple of weeks ago and then realised that he'd taken it quite badly (whereas I'd only really seen it as a silly little joke). It turns out that the bullying he'd received as a teenager has stayed with him well into adulthood... Whereas I see it as almost a term of endearment (if I really don't care about someone, they'd get a rolling of the eyes and me doing my best to ignore them).

Anyway, the title of this post... I just watched a TED video which equated an online presence to a tattoo. Can you imagine it? Every post I ever did, every question I ever asked on a forum, every meltdown on a mailing list, every terrible piece of advice I ever gave on any sort of online media etc. tattooed on my body.... Now there's imagery for you...

Is this a way that privacy could be purveyed to children?

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