April 24, 2018 Esther Shemeth

A Gen Z-er’s Perspective on Privacy

My generation, Generation Z (recently finalized as those born between 1995-2010), are now the ones on the brink of entering the workforce in droves. The problematic fact, if not that we know nothing apart from our technology (which appears true), is that we partially feel we are nothing without it. Why would we choose to remember something when we could just, “look it up later” if we need access to that information?

We were the generation born and raised with technological advancements practically weaved into our DNA, and we feel undefined and incapable of proper interaction when this tech extends beyond an arm’s reach. TV’s powered on, MacBooks on our lap, Instagrams open on our iPhone, music playing – this represents our normal. Most of us do not even recall our exact location when 9/11 occurred or, broadly speaking, what life in America without an awareness of terrorism might have been like.

TV’s powered on, MacBooks on our lap, Instagrams open on our iPhone, music playing – this represents our normal.

Understanding these generational characteristics might contribute to a 2018 etymological analysis of “privacy.” Privacy, loosely defined, can be understood as the right to keep hidden from the public that which is deemed most sensitive or personal. Internet privacy is of particular concern in current conversations.

Should Christians be concerned about Internet privacy? Or about our personal information being perhaps sold to advertisers? Exploitation, identity theft, and home robberies are valid pretexts for skepticisms revolving around the sharing of one’s private information, but what if the information gleaned is not the least bit harmful? Host companies that have access to what we post on social media, giveaway sites, and online job applications all possess the personal information asked for when we signed up for an account. Should we be concerned about sharing this type of information?

For the most part, anything our parents have told us about “once it’s on the internet it’s there forever” does not frighten us away from maximizing our technological capabilities. When one downloads apps, there are typically consent boxes that we are required to accept before we can utilize its services, including giving permission for Snapchat to use/sell our pictures (even if deleted), and Instagram to share our current location to name just two. Apps remain unusable unless we acknowledge and accept these permission requests. Recent hacking scares, and Facebook’s selling of user data, does not seem to inhibit us from publicizing our data, regardless of the possible risks. However, when it comes to more important matters pertaining to our inner lives, we often lack the same transparency. Some of us might feel more comfortable sharing elements of our inner life online rather than opening up about it over dinner. We crave authenticity, for someone to look in our eyes when we share personal struggles or just want to vent, but we seldom give room for this face-to-face interaction.

Some of us might feel more comfortable sharing elements of our inner life online rather than opening up about it over dinner.

There appears to be a drastic separation between our private life and our digital life. Those who transparently reveal their deeper battles on social media balk at becoming vulnerable to share that same issue in person. We rarely disclose intimate details because we cringe when dwelling on how people might distinguish us. Social media has taught to reveal only the best of ourselves while hiding what we deem the worst of ourselves, which affects our reality and direct connections, leading us to reveal positive parts of ourselves for fear of contaminating a person’s perspective of us. We participate in an “independence” ideology which prevents us from sharing our struggles, weaknesses, or vulnerabilities.

Social media has taught to reveal only the best of ourselves while hiding what we deem the worst of ourselves, which affects our reality and direct connections, leading us to reveal positive parts of ourselves for fear of contaminating a person’s perspective of us.

Pin-optics is the theory in which a person always believes someone is watching them even if that person is not. This notion is often manifest in those who spend a lot of time on social media. Christians can possess a similar mentality, picturing God as some “thing” in heaven scrutinizing our every move. What might happen if we perceive God as “with us” instead of “peering over us”?

If we are not confessing our sins to each other, and yet we frivolously share private information online, how do we expect to develop authentic, discipling relationships that invite God to walk alongside us? I challenge not only my fellow Generation Z-er’s but all within the Church to retrieve an interdependence in which we abide by James 5:16, “confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so you may be healed…” We shouldn’t treat social media as a valid replacement for intimate confession, even though we can be open about our information. After carefully considering the results, standing as a church in mutual love and mutual confession supplements as an antidote for true spiritual, emotional, and psychological growth within not just the struggling individual but the community as a whole.We should not justify confessing sins to mere acquaintances over social media as living in community either. Therefore, perhaps we should reserve the sharing of that private information with those closest to us in person. Putting this into practice would allow us to truly exhibit the empathy of Christ.

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About the Author

Esther Shemeth Esther Shemeth is a sophomore Multidisciplinary Studies major at Southeastern University focusing in religion and marketing. She has a strong interest in photography, film, graphic design and how they have the potential to unlock some of the greatest existential breakthroughs in a person's psychology and theology as the modern era of technology progresses. In her free time, you can catch her glued to an informative, nonfiction best seller at a local book store or seated at the piano engaged in playing one of Debussy's alluring compositions.