Does Our Generation Really Care About Privacy?

By Brittany Hale

“How much do we really care?” I found myself asking after taking part in a brief, impromptu class survey of students who felt threatened by NSA data mining our emails and phone records. I was a little surprised to join only two other students who didn’t feel threatened by it at all.

There’s no doubt that we live in a digital age in which everything is overshared and increasingly public. Is it really that surprising that an agency like the National Security Agency has likewise moved into the 21st century? Isn’t it hypocritical to cry foul, especially when a majority of people are okay with posting every detail of their lives online? Is privacy something that we embrace when it comes to Uncle Sam, but toss aside when we log on to social media?

I find it hard to believe that most people are overly concerned with privacy. We all have those people who show up on our news feed, sharing what most would consider incredibly private or personal thoughts. There have been instances where my jaw has literally dropped at some of the things that have been posted on Facebook – baby mama drama, break-ups, deaths, and personal information like addresses and cell phone numbers.

My Facebook friends aren’t the only oversharers, either. Recently, more and more cases have surfaced of individuals posting incriminating information on to social media, information that got them in trouble. Most people have heard of the high school football players in Steubenville, Ohio, who were arrested for rape after posting pictures of themselves carrying a passed out seventeen-year-old girl from party to party. In Astoria, Oregon, an eighteen-year-old was arrested for drunk driving after he posted this to his Facebook page: “Drivin drunk… classic ;) but to whoever’s vehicle i hit i am sorry :P.” Then there was the Boy Scout dad who had a friend record him toppling an ancient rock in Utah only to post it online for the country to see.

Are these people just anomalies? I’d argue that they’re not. It’s increasingly clear that our current culture causes many individuals to overshare, eroding their own privacy in the process. On the other hand, the number of those who fear government and equate the NSA scandal with privacy violations are growing. How can these two thoughts coexist simultaneously?

Surely there are some who take their privacy seriously, online or otherwise, and have serious concerns regarding the data mining taking place in the NSA.  Unfortunately, these individuals are few and far between. Oversharers, however, seem to be unaware of the fact that their privacy vanished the moment they decided to post their address, cell number, and what they had for breakfast this morning on to Facebook.