The technology that seems be most readily applied to the idea of dystopia, oppression and terror is Facebook.com. What makes this discovery most alarming is that nearly every person within 10 years of my age is connected to this website. As time goes on there seems to be no end in sight as the site garners more and more attention and users each day. As of right now there is more than 350 million active users, and that number is growing every day.
The fact that so many people use the site helps to explain how it could be used to cause dystopia. The site displays personal geographical location, age, likes and dislikes, personal photographs, personal interactions with others and more. Something that just recently came to my attention is the site’s potential merger with Twitter. Once you are able to post status updates to both Facebook and Twitter, every daily action of some people will also be posted to the web. Some may not consider this to be a bad thing, as they want their Facebook friends and families to be updated on what’s going on in their daily lives. I wonder, however, how many of these people, college students in particular, would feel comfortable with future employers, school or even government officials obtaining all of the information posted about the students online.
Part II. A good comparison between this situation and that of 1984 is the Telescreen in every room. Just like someone is always watching your activity online on Facebook, in the novel 1984, someone is always watching your activity through the video screens in every room. I’m not saying just that the fact that someone is watching you is the cause of dystopia, but rather the dehumanization and neurotic state that the lack of personal freedom does to a person. In the book, Winston is always so sure that someone is watching him that he knows he is doomed from the start. According to Winston, the act of "thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime is death." (p. 27) He knows if he goes as far as to think anything negative about the party he will be caught and killed.
An interesting thing to compare this to is the content of photographs put up on-line. At my high school, teachers and administration checked the Facebooks of students regularly. If they appeared to be doing anything against the Code of Conduct for the High School, they were reprimanded immediately no questions asked. Although I know this does seem a lot different that being killed for your thoughts, it is also a huge step in that general direction.
Making people feel like someone is always watching, how Winston feels in the novel, takes away the essential human right of privacy and of individuality. When this happens, your body no longer belongs to your mind, but rather to society. Winston puts it best, I think, when he states that, "your worst enemy was your nervous system. At any moment the tension inside you was liable to translate itself into some visible symptom." (p. 64)
Eventually this paranoia and confusion does a number on your psyche and takes away an essential part of your humanity. In the novel, the only people with any sort of freedom from surveillance, the proles, are the ones who are considered to be at least partly human. Just as the proles do, I’m sure the people without Facebooks experience some disadvantages, but they also probably feel much more safe and much more free. They can’t be profiled by employers, schools or anyone based on anything but their physical self, which seems like it would be a huge relief in today’s society.
I think that there are definitely some negative consequences to certain communication technologies. I’m not sure if these are inherent in their design, but they are definitely there and cannot be ignored. I came across an interesting blog that addressed the issue of privacy on Facebook (http://www.insidefacebook.com/2009/12/15/is-facebook-sacrificing-its-pri...) This blog made me question the true intention of Facebook’s new more “open” policy. Are they doing it to make your information more accessible to your family and friends and people you would want to connect with? Or rather are they doing it to make the surveillance process easier for companies, schools and the government?