Impact of Social Media on Surveillance Culture

 Online networking sites such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram are being used immensely as of late. Their prevalence gives new chances for information accumulation by the state and privately owned businesses, which calls for an increase in primary and hypothetical research on web-based networking media surveillance. The terms online networking and social media were created to portray the correspondence, group, and cooperative characteristics of websites, such as Blogger, social network websites such as Facebook and video facilitating stages such as YouTube. Regardless of the fact that there has been a considerable measure of build up about these terms, principally centred around how they provide platforms for new business and promoting opportunities on the web, there are societal impacts of these innovations that should be researched (Ellis et al, 2013). This essay will analyse current theory regarding the rising impact of social media on surveillance culture and discuss the frighteningly accurate foretelling’s of theorists whose work pre dates the social media revolution. Ultimately, displaying the argument that social media has given surveillance culture a platform to manifest and grow and that this ultimately changes the behaviour of the affected generations.

Numerous current meanings of surveillance define a process of “data accumulation and handling, and then again procedures of forming practices (controlling, overseeing, administering, managing, affecting or directing practices)” (Fuchs 2011, p. 41). Societal surveillance includes the accumulation, stockpiling, preparing, and evaluation of information about people or groups of people by a performing artist to propel the latter’s objectives. Foucault (1997) recognises that knowledge is power and in order to gain and maintain power institutions use surveillance. Through methods such as data collecting, governments can turn something as complex as human behaviour into chunks of data. Monitoring people through numbers in order to maintain social order. However, throughout this essay surveillance culture will be defined through theorists such as Deleuze (1992) and Haggerty & Ericson (2000) because in their respective researches there is an understanding that surveillance is not just limited to institutions as Foucault (1997) suggests. In fact, surveillance is more networked now; as technology and globalisation has advanced people have become freer moving and have bigger networks. This has caused a power shift in surveillance that means that people are now more than ever able to monitor their peers’ behaviours. This is a culture of surveillance because it has grown to such a large scale that people have become reliant on it, particularly in the example of online social network because now huge chucks of our personal and social life are online and to step out of this leaves us ostracised.

Online networking can be utilised as a successful apparatus for socialisation. Numerous individuals want to use new types of online networking sites keeping in mind the end goal to be included in this new format of community. It is essential to understand the criticalness of the connection between organisations and the public. Extraordinary consideration ought to be paid to the way technology includes people in surveillance culture because their impression of the public is as an initial form of surveillance (Dinev et al, 2008). Subsequently, social media allows for effortless control of the participants. As recent research suggests, the features of online networking can influence young people. Anderson (2009) highlights the vast amount of data that becomes available to researchers through the new field of social media, particularly in relation to violence, and how this is used to inform policy making. This clearly indicates the effect social media has had on surveillance culture in what could be seen as both a positive and negative manner. To expand, it could be thought that a new platform in which data can be retrieved without knowledge of the participants often makes for richer and more reliable findings, which could be a possible benefit to policy making. However, this essay will show that because this data is often taken from youths and utilised by those in power (Anderson, 2009), it means that the younger generation have no way of informing policy that directly affects them and their lifestyles. With this in mind, social media clearly provides a space for surveillance culture to overlook a whole generation and calls for more debate in issues such as protection and privacy.
The issue of surveillance and privacy in the online networking world is talked broadly about in scientific studies. Teenagers may view surveillance on social networking both in a positive and negative attitude (Stuart and Levine, 2017). However, is imperative to recognise that surveillance online is not merely two-fold, as advertising for afore mentioned sites incorrectly suggest, interacting online is not just you being surveilled by your networked connections and vice versa. It is on the other hand, a method for large-scale organisations to surveil the public. It is notable that following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001; government surveillance has expanded particularly in the United States. These measures incorporate an enthusiasm for social networking online (Marks, 2006). Government enthusiasm for online networking is straightforward, to profile possible offenders and terrorists, it is essential to consolidate an extensive variety of data about individuals. This data incorporates social relations, shared exercises, friend networks, and individual information about political perspectives, religious convictions, sexual preferences, and inclinations concerning regular day-to-day routines. Therefore, social media has clearly fuelled surveillance culture by providing an opportunity for data to be easily and unknowingly collected and manipulated accordingly.

The consequences for actions on social media, particularly in younger people are not always understood. For instance, the transferring of their private data to social media websites and the outcomes might be adverse. In a classroom study, Barnes (2006) highlighted that attitudes towards social media in youths show that they do not feel a connection between what they post online and real world consequences and view online networking as a separate diversion from the real world. Barnes (2006) demonstrates the connection between web-based social networking and youths in a way, which highlights the negative impacts of online networking. As well as this, this study highlights the lack of education around surveillance culture on social media that in turn, gives it a bigger platform to go unnoticed; if people do not expect their data to be misused they are unlikely to refrain from giving it up.

Andrejevec (2002) indicates the way that the surveillance issues concerning online networking usage cannot be taken as an absence of privacy for the users because the data is already available to be used by the organisations that do. However, Barnes (2006) highlights that surveillance culture is infringing on privacy because the lack of education around the privacy rights of these sights allow these organisations some degree of autonomy. Therefore, highlighting the lack of control placed on surveillance culture and the lack of control the public having from being utilised by it.

Social media networking can carry a hint of private correspondence with it because of its situational and ordinary character, yet intervened public platforms are not private. This situation is a focal piece of the discourse concerning surveillance and it is particularly evident regarding accessible data on social media. Most network websites request that their clients give personal details; this data is requested during social network correspondence stages. As such, the required data to profile individuals is not something “concealed that must be revealed or recovered utilising fancy equipment, human operators and such” (Heidegger 1977, p. 6). Individuals themselves are making this data public, free for everyone to access and are therefore fuelling surveillance culture.

Online social communication can have genuine adverse outcomes and has, in this way, offered an open door for various worries from moral frenzies to paranoid fears (Greenop, 2007). This has prompted talks of security and education; youths clearly should be given training on implicit rules concerning online exercises to figure out how to secure their selves. Without a doubt, numerous threats prowl in the world of social networking, incorporating possible security intrusion, misuse of equity given false data and, not slightest, the threat of predators who feel the need to hurt youngsters. These threats are genuine and ought to be dealt with. But, critics assert that the training and the security discourse is additionally an ethical frenzy (Fisher and Lyytinen, 2016).  

Greenop’s (2007) mention of paranoia highlights how surveillance culture, particularly since the social media age is changing what it means to be human. Foucault highlights that the idea of what it means to be human is a recent term and is one that is changing drastically, it is worth noting that Foucault was not writing at a time where social media had reached its peak but the growth in a technology-dependant culture was already apparent.  A rising dependence on technology is directly link with mental health issues and the rise of a more neurotic population. Twenge and Campbell (2009) argue that culture in American culture has shifted from focusing on community to money and the results mean that a higher number of younger people are likely to experience poor mental health. Furedi (2006) claims that a neurotic population is desired by the state and that fear levels are being deliberately raised in order to create anxiousness, which in turn, makes people easier to control. To expand, dependence on social media and technology as a whole could arguably be making the population more complacent in surveillance. Terms such as “you have nothing to fear, if you have nothing to hide” are often used as a way of normalising mass surveillance and a highly technologically dependant community will be more neurotic and anxious and therefore easier to surveil.
Haggerty and Ericson (2000) emphasise that surveillance culture is dependant on the rise of networked communities, with so many people on social media it becomes easy for everyone to surveil each other and therefore surveillance is not only a tool of large scale institutions but common practice for everyone. There are contending policy, media, and social talks stating that women ought to keep up their privacy within their online presence, yet all the while should openly exhibit themselves online in a specific, gendered way; either as mindful or as popular (Ball et al, 2009). In the meantime, “as self- showing as private and capable, it is normal for females to increase social capital from freely self-displaying as socially acknowledged, which includes uploading photographs and having numerous online contacts – immediately contrary to the desires of self- restriction and privacy” (Ball et al 2009, p. 356). These contradictory desires are authorised by social surveillance, where females who do not give in to the societal pressure receive negative judgment or even provocation from other users on social media (Bailey, 2013). It is therefore clear that social media as a way of enforcing behavioural norms has impacted surveillance culture.

Taking into consideration the discourse with regards to online interpersonal networking, a conventional and rather contrary origination of surveillance is rendered obsolete. If surveillance is related to the intrusion of one’s privacy and is predominately a method of discipline (Foucault, 1997). By this definition surveillance is enforced by structures, for example, the Panopticon. The Panopticon is a metaphor for surveillance in which the disciplined are watched at all times and cannot see the watcher. This instils a sense of fear and theoretically enforces order. However, the issue is that it does not appear to sufficiently portray the desire to be surveilled with regards to online networking via social media (Lyon 2006; McGrath 2004).  Social media has impacted surveillance culture in such a way that it has became participatory and something to be desired, as long as the perception of yourself you present is desirable. The ethical frenzies, paranoid fears, and the challenges in comprehending why individuals really would need to participate in online social communication all mirror this tragic view on surveillance. It is the reason behind the talks of privacy and instruction and also for the possibility that clients are either performing risk examinations before establishing a profile on the social media website or just are not aware of enough regarding the prowling threats of surveillance.

The visual illustration of surveillance offered by the Panopticon infers a spatial chain of command where the observer is situated over the one being observed. However, this might not be taken as surveillance being fundamentally a power dynamic in which the observer is in control of the observed. In fact, surveillance can be viewed as a levelled relationship even for the individual under surveillance, either through opposition (McGrath, 2004) or as exhibitionism (Koskela, 2004). Furthermore, surveillance can be conducted by both the watcher and watched, as depicted by Andrejevic (2005) who has presented the idea of horizontal surveillance. Despite the fact that Andrejevic does not explicitly build the association, horizontal surveillance appears to be a helpful idea to shed light on specific parts of social media as everyone who is being surveilled is also surveilling others.

Counter arguments in regards to surveillance culture could see it as enabling, as the observing encourage better methods of building personality, meeting companions and partners, along with associating with people outside of your social circle. This progresses the part played by the client from uninvolved to dynamic, given that surveillance in this setting provides some autonomy to the user. Online media communication in this way represents surveillance, “as a shared, enabling and subjectivity formulating exercise – is in a general sense quite social” (Solove 2007, p. 745). The act of online interpersonal interaction can be viewed as enabling, as it is an approach to connect with other individuals and develop connections deliberately. However, it is critical to not consequently accept that the practice of networking, which these sites depend on, is just a product for exchanging. It is in fact a form of surveillance culture that extends on Deleuze’s (1992) belief that surveillance is no longer about monitoring those separate to us but a method of collecting data from the everyday and social media is a perfect way of gathering this.

To conclude, this essay has demonstrated an understanding of surveillance culture is an advancement of surveillance in which being surveilled has become participatory. This is due to human beings becoming increasing technology-dependant. Particularly through the example of social media the impact of surveillance culture has been explored. Firstly as a readily available source of data which is used to both monitor and adapt the behaviours of a society by institutions and secondly as a way of encouraging participatory surveillance in turn, causing a complacent attitude towards surveillance cultural. The impact of social media was also shown to deeply affect human behaviour in general, creating a more neurotic and anxious population, which as explained by Furedi (2006), makes people easier to control and in turn, makes the aims of surveillance culture easier to accomplish.

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Andrejevic, M. (2002). The Work of Being Watched: Interactive Media and the Exploration of Self-Disclosure. Critical Studies in Media Communication. 19 (2). 230–248.

Andrejevic, M. (2005). The Work of Watching One Another: Lateral Surveillance, Risk, and Governance. Surveillance & Society. 2 (4). 479-497.

Bailey, J. (2013). ‘Sexualized Online Bullying’ Through an Equality Lens: Missed Opportunity in AB v. Bragg?” McGill Law Journal. 59 (3). 1-24. 

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