It is never a pleasant experience to come across less funds in your checking account than you’d hope. It is even less enjoyable to find that several charged purchases are not of your doing – a situation I unfortunately found myself in last week. After several moments of eerie elevator music, bureaucratic procedures, and many thank yous, my debit card was frozen and a new one would arrive soon.
Initially, I was, of course, upset; however, the target of my frustration did not lie within my own actions, nor even the actions, or lack thereof, of my bank. What was blank frustration rather quickly morphed into general dissatisfaction with a world moving at tremendous speeds where such matters happen ad nauseam to no real resolution, only more forms of security. A world of indefinite intricacies requires a world of rampant security measures: security cameras atop every pole, nestled into every corner, cars with the most advanced GPS systems and, of course, the ubiquitous commander of knowledge that remains with us at all times—the smartphone.
While I initially moved on with my normal days of work and play, a lingering thought made its way into my head from time to time: what it means to inhabit a society of security in a post-9/11 world, the only world that our generation, has Generation Z, has only inhabited. There is no singular event that has changed the United States’ comprehension of security and privacy as effective as 9/11; as Peter Swire, the Chief Counselor for Privacy during the Clinton Administration, exclaimed, “With the attacks of September 11, 2001, everything changed. The new focus was overwhelmingly on security rather than privacy.” As security legislation from Congress only becomes further embedded into our daily life, it seems as if a society of security has created a generation devoid of privacy and the very desire for it.
The idea of privacy seems antiquated in today’s world. With almost all members of Generation Z using a smartphone, and according to a 2018 Pew Research survey, more than ¾ of people using social media-based apps such as Instagram, Snapchat, etc.…, the private way of life is almost unimaginable, nor even desirable for our social selves. Apart from when our eyes are closed at night, we are immersed actively or passively in the social or public realm. Solitude is not an experience many feel today, unless you were to purposefully make time to sit with your thoughts. Even if we were to be away from such a world, it would simply take a buzz [sometimes even imagined] and a glance to absorb our senses once more.
This preoccupation with the social – while beautiful in many freeing ways – is not due to some intrinsic spirit that we all share; rather, there has never been a generation of people who’ve been more encapsulated and consumed by advertisements than our very own. And not one-dimensional car advertisements of the 1950s targeting generic fathers who wish to create the “nuclear family,” nor cable television advertisements [what Gen Z’er watches cable today?] about medication targeting the elderly, but advertisements catered simply to you.
A very own you, encompassing all your interests, desires, vibes and essences. And while many may see this as an unquestionable benefit, a pure convenience, the very nature of said interests stem from a brilliant algorithm that monitors what you click on and responds with piercing accuracy. And as a generation that predominantly consumes goods through e-shopping, those idiosyncratic clothes, personalized posters, or that random knick-knack that just felt necessary to own further propels us in the commodification process; it is only now, however, that we as individuals have been specifically-commodified, each in our own unique way.
With that said, this is not a critique of self-expression, a wonder that I am glad we are able to practice as loving and conceptualizing individuals. Rather, it is a critique towards the impulse-fostering advertisements that remain across all instances of the internet and nurture the belief that every material desire we could fathom can now be bought and SHOULD be bought.
A helpful tip to bring some privacy and peace back in your life, a tip I imagine many of you already know: get an adblock.