Christopher Wylie, The Cambridge Analytica whistleblower, recently opened the Pandora box of the not so hidden world of data mining, leaving many people and me included, deeply perplexed about the control we don't have on the flux of our personal data for lucrative purposes. All the ethical implication have been largely and thoroughly analyzed, but somehow I felt a missing point has been left out (from my personal point of view, obviously).
Another feeling that for a few days had no name left me with a bad taste in my mouth and I couldn't identify it easily. My leftist education was suggesting to me that I was feeling outraged for such a reckless abuse of power over my personal data but at the same time, I knew my beliefs are not that strong. The point is: I didn't know I was owning such a precious and valuable thing. I'm not a broker but I think it's reasonable that if you're basically selling anything you will receive something else back. Anyone with any vision of the world would find unreasonable to give away something with a value to someone that has a clear economic interest to it without gaining anything. And no one would find reasonable doing charity for a company: a neoliberal especially. Now I'm wondering: apart from tailor-made advertisements what am I getting back?
I don't consider myself an activist but there has to be a better way to balance the flux of informations that have a great economic potential and are now given for free such as they were a gift. Is it money we should ask for? Can I change the world? Do I even want to? That would make me look a better person but I'm definitely not.
If I'm looking at this situation having my background and identity in mind (storytelling studies) it's not money I want back. The curation of our online persona, the creative effort we actually put in narrating ourselves, the storage of memories and emotions in the emotive archive that is becoming the internet, is suggesting me something else.
The reward might be, arguably, the dopamine derived from the likes on social media. But is everyone actually up for manipulating what they share in order to have that kind of satisfaction? I heard many times people complaining and saying: the other day I shared a post that I sincerely thought was amazing and then I had 3 likes. Then a beach body or a puppy on my timeline has hundreds of likes in a very short amount of time. I'm aware that I have to say that that frustration is probably shared by what is a narrowed circle of my acquaintances, but at the same time is sincere and comes from an honest perplexity. How to build a reward that makes sense to people that feel cut off from almost any kind of satisfaction on social media but are actually spending time and effort on it? Likes are not enough for them, and even if I admit they feel good, they're not enough for me.