Internet Paranoia: They’re Watching You

It is a scary thought, feeling as if someone is watching you, especially in this age where it is entirely too easy for anyone to find you. Paranoia is becoming a constant, especially now, as the Internet and social media are growing far beyond anyone’s expectations.

A report released last year by Javelin Strategy & Research states that in 2009, 11.1 million adults were victims of identity theft. According to Javelin Strategy & Research, two years ago, identity theft went up 12% in the United States and for the record, most fraud and identity theft was done online.

But the constant fear of online identity theft is only only one reason for the fear of the Internet. It’s a minor problem compared to the growing paranoia at large.

I remember when I got my first computer. I was in sixth grade and I had just started middle school. AOL was still handing out disks of free minutes.

When I was younger, I felt as if the Internet were more free. Now, the Internet is not a place that feels young, free, open, or safe. Anonymity is impossible now (mostly); you cannot be anyone but yourself, and even that carries its dangers. Many make careful decisions about what they want to put on the web, what pictures they post, how they comment their friends.

Honestly, the Internet is becoming a frightening place because of the paranoia about who might be watching. There’s paranoia about frauds and criminals who could easily find your information with no more knowledge than the average pre-pubescent teen. College students worry about future employers searching out their Facebook profiles, transferring students worry about the school of their dreams digging up unpleasant information about their personalities. Not to mention paranoia about the governments of some countries that have entire cyberspying units.

I’ve been hearing two words phrased together often when talking about Internet paranoia. People say it’s that we live in a “Big Brother” society, a reference to Orwell’s classic, 1984, a book talks of a dystopian society where even your own personal thoughts are monitored. The thing is, the constant paranoia is based in truth now and in Orwell’s fiction, suggesting the same thing that rising fraud and identity theft suggest: someone is watching you and it might not be too far fetched to keep one eye open as you sleep.

Think for a moment. Isn’t it kind of creepy that anyone can find out your personal information like where you live, what places you frequent, what music you listen to and what your friends do with a click of a button?  There is such a thing as data mining. Companies collect bits and pieces of seemingly random information about you and sell it to advertisers. For example, if you type “underwear” on a search engine, maybe days or even hours later, you might see an advertisement in the corner of some website advertising Victoria Secret. This carries with it an extreme creep factor. What else are these companies collecting about us?

If you had to assign the Internet a meaningful color eight years ago, when it seemed somehow freer and safer, you could color it green because of its newness, its innocence. You would give it the green of newly sprouted buds.

But if you had to give it a color now, it would be somewhere in between orange and red, because now there are many government debates going on about policing the web and we’re in a danger zone of fear and paranoia.

It is creepy, and really… who can you trust? And how might this misinformation harm you?

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