The internet seems to hold integral within it a constant tension between being watched and a supposed freedom.
Our Facebook accounts are covered in adverts which are meant to appeal to ‘people like us’, and this feeds back to YouTube, Amazon, eBay, Twitter… The internet is a partner to capitalism, giving us the supposedly one-stop solution product to whatever problem we searched for in the first place, or indeed, whatever problem could be inferred from the search.
This has a panopticon effect, causing us to police ourselves and the content we put out there, but do we? Ashamedly, my Facebook profile still has upon it many photos from drunken nights out. And whilst I might be more mindful of what I post now is anonymity ever really an option? We are told we have to have an internet presence for professional life, career opportunities, academic research, and for socialising, and I do not really see a way out.
The internet is a place where we can supposedly speak freely. ‘Pseudo-anonymity’ can give us the opportunity to post and say what we really think, but surely we wouldn’t be saying those things in the first place if we didn’t want someone to read them, validate them, and validate ourselves. And we are ultimately always aware of, if not someone watching, the potential for such surveillance that the internet not only provides but encourages. So even if we are anonymous (which ultimately seems quite appealing in such a world) we police ourselves as normal, as we do in everyday life and ordinary social situations.
In short, the internet potentially provides us with a space in which we can find community, liberation and support, particularly if we have a problem or condition that is not experienced throughout the vast population. It provides a space in which freedom of thought is a potential, but not necessarily a given, as through its tracking and panopticon affect we fear such freedom of thought which seems dangerous in a world where everything is archived and tracked and nothing is private.
However, ultimately, I do have something to say, and an “investment in the future”, and whilst I can’t control too heavily what is tracked about me whilst still taking advantage of the positive potential of the internet and social media sites, I can control what I post, write and say. And in a post-truth world where so many things can’t be controlled or trusted, I would like to take ownership of the things I say and think.