Sunday, 14 September 2014

Our Shrinking World

It used to be that most people lived in small rural communities and doing so we had few secrets from others in our hometown or village.  We shopped at local stores, so our buying habits became known to our neighbours; we shared the philosophies we held dear to our hearts and they quickly became well known and judged or accepted by our peers, and any poor choice we made was broadcast to everyone we knew in short order.  If we made an unfortunate choice or committed a crime against another, we were easily identified and the consequences were unavoidable.

As we migrated away from our hometowns and villages into large metropolises, we quickly adapted and enjoyed the anonymity of blending in with the faceless crowd.  We could experiment with lifestyle choices; purchase what we wanted without judgment, and could keep secrets from our friends and family.  We were free spirits in a vast, disconnected world.  We found that we could get away with bad behaviour and avoid consequences for our crimes

Now, however, it appears that our world is shrinking back down to the the form of a village, not so much in population or geographic footprint, but in connectivity.  Recent news items highlight this trend;

The man who bullied and blackmailed Amanda Todd in British Columbia, Canada, driving her to complete her suicide, was a resident of the Netherlands.  He thought he was anonymous.  In April, 2014 he was arrested by Dutch authorities and charged with extortion, internet luring, criminal harassment and the possession and distribution of child pornography for his alleged activities against Amanda.

Just this past week, the identity of the masked ISIL executioner who filmed himself beheading two captured non-combat Americans, became known and shared amongst intelligence agencies of various countries responding to the ISIL threat.  There is no doubt that this man will be captured and brought to trial for murder or killed by anti-ISIL forces.

A third, non-criminal case arose recently when the father of a teen girl took Target stores to task for sending his daughter coupons for cribs, baby clothes and formula.  When Target investigated, they discovered that the algorithm their computers use to analyze purchases by their customers had noticed that the teen’s purchasing patterns had changed from that of a teen girl to an expectant future mother so it automatically began sending her ads and coupons that aligned with her new purchasing pattern.  And yes, the computer was correct - the girl confessed to her Dad that she was pregnant.

The internet is connecting us in ways we never intended.  We share our worldview on a social media site with our chosen friends who then share it with theirs and so on until the news of our politics or philosophies or opinions may be known to millions.  We are more aware of our world by receiving raw news feeds from all corners of the globe before it is filtered by the large media giants, yet at the same time we are part of that connectivity and news feed.

For better or worse, our vast anonymous world is shrinking to that of a global village which affords us community but gives us nowhere to hide.

Aaron D. McClelland, MMT, RPC -

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