A Privacy Freak Goes Public: ISYS6621

Do you use Startpage or DuckDuckGo for your search engine every time you go online? Are you self-taught in using netstat commands to regularly monitor your network ports? Is your Facebook so private that your mother could not find you (or friend you) when she first got an account?

No? Just me?

If the measures above sound a bit extreme to you, then you probably have a much healthier relationship with the Internet than I do. I rarely update my social media accounts, all of which are set up with the strictest possible privacy and security settings. I check my connection logs almost every week to ensure that nobody is “listening” to my internet traffic, and, despite its fairly terrible interface, I exclusively use Firefox because I do not trust Chrome or Safari. Even my iPhone is locked with an alphanumeric passcode.

With this in mind, a question naturally arises: Why would you willingly sign up for (and stay in) a class where a public online presence is an absolute necessity?

First and foremost, I am fascinated by digital business as a means for both company and industry transformation. My past job and internship experience has run the gamut from working in an archaic office where “electronic filing” were dirty words to working on a team investing in the holy grails of advanced data colocation and super-scale cloud providers. That these two corporate extremes can somehow coexist at the same time and in the same economy is a quandary in and of itself- one that I expect we will examine and discuss at great length in this class.

Second, I anticipate that this class will make me comfortable with the uncomfortable, particularly with respect to my privacy paranoia and aversion to having a detectable social media persona. I was aware that tweeting was part of Social Media and Digital Business before registering, but nothing could have prepared me for the amount of tweeting, blogging, and public insight sharing that will be required for the course. Putting one’s thoughts and opinions into the public sphere forces a level of commitment that simply does not exist when expressing similar sentiments in an in-person discussion. The “paper trail” of tweets, and social media in general, is permanent, but the format of communication feels deceptively temporary.

On a more pragmatic basis, coming to accept that I will never know exactly who is reading and engaging with my content is both exciting and unnerving. The digital world is full of surprises and unknowns – as a case in point, I woke up this morning to a comment on my first tweet from a funk music record label based in Lisbon:

I assume Pure Funk Records found my tweet because I used the word “dropout” in it (which seems to fit their aesthetic), but I suppose it is possible that they, too, care about education technology applications.

Finally, I am excited about the possibility of a wholly unique class experience in my last semester here at Boston College. The idea of the professor as facilitator and challenger, rather than only as a lecturer and assessor, is refreshing, particularly when combined with a mixed-level student group. With this model, I anticipate that Social Media and Digital Business will be a class that is centered on the present moment, adjusts to trends and news as they arise, and is able to take into account the positive and negative externalities of digital business in real-time. The anticipated dynamism of this class seems to me to be the perfect complement to its subject matter, as there can be no straightforward playbook for a history and phenomenon in the making.

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