When I were a lass, digital technology was, like my sense of dignity, in its infancy.
I could stride confidently through my errors of judgement – clothing, opinions, whether a cardboard box full of beer bottles would indeed hold my weight – safe in the knowledge that while I would wake up with a hangover, some minor facial injuries and a heavy feeling of shame in my gut, it was unlikely the moment in question was currently being broadcast across social media networks or indeed, national newspapers.
Image via brunchnews.
I’m fully aware that there are people in the world far more deserving of my sympathy than the attention-hungry hordes descending upon Aintree Racecourse every year in the hope of being photographed and sneeringly dissected by the media, but there’s a serious point to be made about our cavalier attitude towards technology and the darker side to the now ubiquitous recording of our every move.
For some, it’s little more than the 21st century equivalent of pointing and laughing at the village idiot. Surely, if you go to a public place, slathered in fake tan, dressed like a enthusiastic but slightly misguided female impersonator and two bottles of rose better off, you deserve to wake up feeling ashamed and humiliated, don’t you?
But for the rest of your life? Those images, whether collected in public by friends and popped on Facebook for everyone you’ve ever met to comment on, or worse, syndicated and splashed across the tabloids, will exist on the internet forever. In ten years time, when an individual has developed as a human being and might be seeking employment, a new relationship, any opportunity to move their life forward in a positive way, could be reduced to a drunken mess with a nipple visible, lying on a concrete floor with one click of a mouse.
We’re already seeing how private photographs taken between consenting adults during the course of a relationship can be weaponised by an estranged partner uploading them to social media platforms, but while that’s an extreme, the principle of magnifying a fleeting moment is the same.
It might seem unfathomable now, but when this was taken, these guys thought they looked wickeeeed. Image via cepega.com.
You could say, don’t put yourself in those situations, then. Don’t get wankered in public or fight or dress like an Oompah-Loompah or think you’re the nuts because you’re nineteen and essentially indestructible. In that case, I admire you for having lived a long and faultless existence. I cannot say the same, but you know what? Even though I occasionally made the stupidest, most irresponsible decisions I could find, fell over, behaved like a massive arse and humiliated myself so frequently in public that I became famous for it, I wouldn’t change a single thing.
The difference between man and machine is that technology is specifically designed to be unerringly consistent – mistakes are not written into their software and any flaws are found and dispensed with during the design phase. Humans, god love us, are the opposite. Mistakes are a learning mechanism. I’m a better person for being allowed to make those catastrophic errors of judgement and having to learn how to cope with them. The only reason I can look back on them fondly though, is because they only exist in my memory and the memories of my friends, who, let’s face it, were right there with me, creating their own learning curves.
How do we grow as human beings if we’re called out on every mistake we make? If it remains in the dark recesses of our mind like the school bully, just waiting to leap out and clout us round the back of the head if it thinks we’re getting above ourselves?
We’re not going to grow, are we? We’re either going to cower in a cupboard until the internet goes away (unlikely) or remain in a kind of infantile fugue, where efforts towards self-improvement are pointless because we’ve already been labelled unfit for purpose.
This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.
TS Eliot, The Hollow Men.