Reflection on “Status Update”

When I travel, I tend to binge listen to podcasts as I’ve found them to be an amazing tool for getting through long flights. During the most recent trek for WCUS, I listened to This American Life’s “Status Update”. It was an incredible insight into the various Status Updates we have in our society. I find social media to be fascinating and never realized that it’s basically a realtime status feed: A went on a trip to New Zealand, B got a new job, C got engaged, D got a new car, E just moved to NYC, on and on. The podcast goes into the details of 3 high schoolers and their instagram feed, the difference between just liking vs. commenting on a new post, the social dynamics behind the whole world. It’s incredible to think about. It’s like those holiday discussions with relatives where you can sense they are checking in to see if you are making something of yourself yet taken to a whole new level. I don’t miss it personally. Being untethered to this world of posting and agonizing over what people think of you has helped me think about what I think of my day to day life. Do I enjoy the life I’m living? How should I spend my time? This may seem counterintuitive but… It’s a more self centered approach – I don’t factor in other folk’s opinions as much. I am more focused on what I think of my life. I make decisions for myself not for the post it will make.

The rest of the podcast dove into this idea of a different kind of status – the uncurated kind where you find out information about your neighbors that you didn’t know before. I won’t ruin it (you should really listen to it) but the idea of uncurated information being shared is fascinating. One aspect of adulthood that is related to this would be something like salary. Imagine if tomorrow, you could go on google maps and see how much money your neighbors, friends, and family made. I can only think of a handful of people who know how much money I make. It’s an odd thing to talk about mainly because of how personal it is. I’m not particularly tied to money as a status giver though because I really do see it just as a tool/an invention. Some jobs are valued more than others for reasons I don’t fully understand. It doesn’t take away from the work one does though. If I was working in the psychology field I wouldn’t be making close to what I’m making now but I could be potentially saving/changing lives every day as a psychologist. Remind me how money is related to status? 🙂 Like most things though, just because I don’t personally care about money doesn’t mean that I don’t know/realize that society does care. It’s enough to just know that society cares to make me stay quiet about it and to feel uncomfortable sharing. In fact, I’d probably be more inclined to share my sexual orientation rather than my finances. What would happen if tomorrow we knew everyone’s salary? What would happen if tomorrow we knew how each individual voted in elections? This dives into some of what’s talked about in To Save Everything, Click Here  (a great read – exact page here) but the idea is if we save and share everything is this a good thing? What is privacy? Who is protecting us on the internet? What happens when we do share how people voted?

“A contentious question on the California ballot in 2008 inspired a simple online innovation: a website called The number in the name referred to Proposition 8, which called for the state’s constitution to be amended to prohibit gay marriage. Under California’s campaign finance laws, all donations greater than $100 to groups advocating for or against Proposition 8 were recorded in a publicly accessible database. Someone (it’s still not clear who) took all the data about the proposition’s supporters—their names and zip codes, and their employers in some cases—and plotted it on a Google map.” From The Problem with Our Data Obsession

Social media is self-curated but the more terms of service statements we agree to and the more products we sign up for, the higher the risk of personal becoming public. For example, I use Mint to track my finances. What if that got hacked just like the iCloud images hack? What if my finances suddenly became public and available on a Google map? All of these questions point towards this: what should we keep private and why? Things like finances and politics are personal for very different reasons – in a very surface level sense, one ranks you in terms of how others might think of you (finances) and the other helps outsiders assume how you might feel about them or general world issues (politics).

To close, what would you want to remain private? What do you hold back from sharing on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc?


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