“In his book Discipline and Punish, philosopher Michel Foucault describes how surveillance operates as a mechanism of control. When inmates believe they are being watched, they conform to what they believe to be the norms of the prison and the expectations of their jailors. Surveillance is a mechanism by which powerful entities assert their power over less powerful individuals.”
This quote well summarizes the effects of surveillance we have studied and discussed in class. People act differently when they are surveilled and it is for that reason people need privacy and privacy is a human right. This idea is illustrated in the podcast about Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon. The Panopticon is circular jail building with a watchman in the center who cannot watch all prisoners at once so the inmates are not able to tell when they are being watched. Therefore, the prisoners behave as though they are being watched. I think this effect of surveillance affects teens’ use of social media today. When using social media sites, such as Facebook, teens accept that they can be surveilled and thus they act accordingly. For example, our parents advise us not to post pictures on social media that we would not want our potential employers to see.
The result of a difference in behavior when being surveilled means online activity does not always reflect our genuine selves to the degree human interaction can. Knowing that they are being surveilled, many teens tend to post the best parts of their lives. When looking at a teen’s Instagram profile, it tends to look like a carefully curated highlight reel. This is more evidence that we act differently with surveillance. It is ironic that social media is a means to connect people but at the same time, it distances people because we do not portray our most genuine selves as we do with human interaction.