Autonomy and Technology
Since the birth of our nation, personal freedoms have been imbedded in the collective conscience of our society. Our Founding Fathers championed the ideas of Locke, Voltaire, and Rousseau. Consequently, concepts such as popular sovereignty, freedom of speech, and the social contact are integral parts of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The main issue our predecessors had with the British was the lack of autonomy. Autonomy as defined by the prompt is “the right to be free of interference from or domination by other private individuals.” Obviously, the colonist felt that the deficiency was worth going to war with their oppressors. As a result, the new nation set up protections so that the new government could not infringe upon the autonomy of its citizens. Thus, the United States would succeed where the British had failed. In the present day, personal autonomy is being threatened again; however, this time the threat is not the government. The challenge comes from an unexpected source: technology.
Technology allows individuals to be more interconnected than ever before. People are free to develop an online presence that is then used to interact with their friends and other likeminded individuals. When used positively, this allows the internet to become the fertile forum for ideas and innovation it was meant to be. Nevertheless, it is often used for more social purposes. Twitter and Instagram are used to share details about one’s personal affairs and recreational activities.
Recently, certain entities have begun to monitor the online presence of certain individuals. Employers are holding their employees accountable for the things they post on the internet. Whistleblowers have revealed that the government is monitoring the online activity of its citizens. College admissions counselors are looking at prospective student’s social media accounts. Anything posted on the internet is now fair game for whomever is interested. As a result, people are being forced to restrict their own autonomy.
Unlike the plight faced by the revolutionary Americans, the solution to this new attack on autonomy is not violence or legislation. I believe that social media should give users more privacy settings. Currently, there is just two options: private and public. No one classifies their social interactions into just two categories. All social media should adapt an interface similar to Google+. Individuals should be able to regulate who can see what. More personal details should only be viewed by trusted friends, while their basic information should be able to be viewed by potential employers. This solutions allows people to maintain an online presence without compromising both their autonomy and professional life.