Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Surveillance is High

Attention: I am seriously considering disconnecting myself entirely from the internet, my cell phone, credit cards, places that take my picture as I enter under the guise of a "fun" family momento, and also E-Z pass. Sure, these things make my life easier (with the exception of the "fun" family photo), but seriously. It has got to stop. As someone who is just this side of paranoid, the constant surveillance is starting to push me over to Tin Hat County.

What caused this recent rash of paranoid behavior? Well, as probably none of you know, I spent the weekend in Rhode Island, specifically Providence and Newport. I used my computer while I was there, because obviously I have a serious addiction that will probably need a support group of some kind to get over (though I didn't have time to actually write an entry while there or after I returned). One of the places I visited was Facebook, because -once again- addicted.

So today, I sign into Facebook and along the side is an ad for a shop in Newport. "Huh," I thought to myself, "how odd! I was just there!" I go to the next page, and there's an ad for cellulite removal ("dramatization: results not typical"), the next page, an ad for Obama gear (I don't want an Obama shirt, leave me alone!), and on the next page, an ad for the Providence WaterFire; this was something I went to and it was awesome. They put bonfire type things in the river and light them on fire -after a rather long wait. Then everyone mills around, because it extends quite a ways up the river and down the river; it was ungodly hot though, so I recommend it as more of a "fall" venture. There was also a street fair. Overall, a "10" on the awesome sliding scale. So my thought on this was "Oh, I did that! It was cool!" And then a couple more pages with things like "Single and 22?" (why, yes, actually; how kind of you to notice) and "Shop for engagement rings!" (haven't we just established that I'm single and 22?), there was suddenly an ad for Newport again; the Newport Jazz Festival, August blah-blah through blah-blah. And now, I've got a creepy sense of foreboding, like someone who is being tracked by the government feels.

I'm pretty sure we're already on government watch lists; my father is a guy who is a registered Republican but has voted for Nader the last two elections, and frequently writes the government letters disparaging their goals and practices. He once wrote Joe Lieberman a letter that ended with the line, "If you continue to support this foolhardy war, I must come to the conclusion you have taken a permanent leave of your senses", and when my aunt was visiting the Capitol on business and had a chance to send the flag that flies over one of the government buildings to my sisters for their birthday and had to get our address, the first thing that popped up when her congressional guide searched for our address was an angry letter my father had written to the FDA about GMOs and Frankencorn. Which was a little embarrassing for my aunt (the story gets better: when the flag arrived for my sisters with no return address or note of explanation, and my parents jumped over to full fledged paranoid state because my aunt had forgotten to tell them what the flag was and why it showed up at our house; obviously, we know now). 

He is also a frequent caller to the White House; the first time was after he'd had back surgery and was left to his own devices for something like 6 hours. I came home from school to find him in a loop where he kept getting connected to the White House gift shop. That would discourage other easily bored people, but my father wanted to get through so he could tell Bill Clinton (or an aid to an aid to Bill Clinton) that he approved of whatever it was that Bill had done that week; he finally did. These days, I imagine the phone calls aren't quite as congratulatory.

What all of this means is that I'm starting to feel as if I live in an Orwellian situation, like I'm only outside of government (or advertising's) scrutiny when I stand in one corner of my room. Although, my computer is in here, so not so much. I want to be literally free to move about the country, without being tracked or photographed or monitored; I don't care if a majority of these images or information will never be seen by human eyes. I don't care that Facebook advertising is more than likely dictated by some kind of formulaic code and that no one really knows where I've been all weekend unless I tell them. Because the information is there, and it can be found. Like phone records. I want to have a little bit more liberty, and a little less security. I was at a museum built at the site of the 1969 Woodstock concert, and there was a booth where people could leave messages for one another. "Bill, I'm on the left side of the stage". Yeah, so Bill probably never found his friend at the left side of the stage; but I kind of like the go with the flowness of it all. I like safety precautions; but I'm thinking that we're taking it a bit far, that we're turning into a people who have grown complacent about consistently being monitored, that we're growing into a people who really are starting to believe that it doesn't matter if people are watching if you're not doing anything wrong instead of recognizing the importance of privacy for privacy's sake.

And so, if I weren't as addicted as I am and if I didn't have problems with substandard sanitation, I would definitely go off, build myself a shack, and disconnect from this as much as I could. Live without having my purchases, reading habits, movement, and moods tracked. But I am addicted, I am jacked in, and I don't foresee leaving any time soon. But the time may very well come when I try to lead a revolution against photos the next time I'm pressed into a fake background and told to smile. Especially when I'm told they're for "security purposes".


MediaMaven said...

Did you indicate in your Facebook status that you were going to or in Providence? That's the only reason I can see for the site to have so many Rhode Island-themed ads targeted to you.

Other than that, I really enjoyed the post.

petpluto said...

Nope, I said nothing. I just used the Hampton Inn's computer access in Rhode Island.

And thanks!