“Don’t talk to strangers, and never post anything online you wouldn’t want me to see.” These were the guidelines my mom gave me when I first got a Facebook account in fifth grade. It made me feel so mature to have one. It was my first real access to what I’d call the real internet, the one that existed beyond Nickelodeon and Disney.com. Back then I told myself I would never post anything that could come back to hurt me later on, until I went back last year and saw once again the horrors of my old Facebook.
Luckily, I had never posted anything disparaging towards another person; I was never cruel nor did I take part in the multitude of pointless arguments that were bound to happen when 12-year-olds are given unfettered access to the internet with little to no supervision. Mostly, it was just posts with embarrassing grammar mistakes or ones with little to no thought given to how they may affect me later on in life. Things seemed to change when I got a Twitter. It was seventh grade. In those short couple of years, I had learned how to curse effectively for the first time in my life, and with a wide new vocabulary paired with an immature 13-year-old brain it seemed perfectly reasonable to curse and vent all my feelings to my measly hundred followers. Tweets that are now seemingly on the internet forever.
I’m not alone in these sentiments. In our increasingly connected society it seems that everyone has pictures or videos of them posted somewhere that would be if not detrimental to future prospects simply embarrassing to have come to light, whether it be a night in college where you got slightly too drunk at a friend’s party, or a finsta post that no one should ever see again. We live in an ever-changing and more interconnected world. With people getting online earlier and earlier in their lives, it’s inevitable that someone will post something online that years later may hurt them. Parents simply telling their children to mind what they post doesn’t work all that well either. It’s easy to post something with no thought of the consequences.
Moreover, everyone has signed internet terms and agreements that we barely take a look at. Most of these agreements give internet companies the right to collect and sell massive amounts of data about our browsing habits and can offer insights into our private lives that we never intended to share with others, let alone large advertising companies.
These complex issues lead to a relatively easy solution. Everyone should have the right to tell major companies that we frequent, such as Google, Facebook and Twitter, to delete all data about ourselves that they have stored for future use. This concept has already been proven to work in the European Union, which passed a law providing the right in 2014.
As more and more of our lives are put online for the public to see, we must consider all options on the table to withdraw the consent of our lives being on display for the world to see. While we must take responsibility for what we post, we must balance that with the fact that we often don’t think of long term consequences before we post.