This year, Facebook celebrates its 14th birthday. The world’s most popular social network, which has connected billions of people to reveal every bit of information about themselves at any given moment, is now celebrating its mid-teens. We, on the other hand, celebrate the end of the age of privacy and the beginning of the era of collectivity.
Facebook is not the only one to blame. We are all part of this. From the moment we became technology junkies, we all “agreed” to have our online behavior constantly monitored. Our details are exposed in the virtual space, subject to the manipulation and exploitation of anybody who can spend on advertising, and anybody who decided to spend some of their time learning how to hack into our accounts.
But what do we have to hide? Also, who and what are we ashamed of?
Why Are We So Anxious Regarding Our Privacy?
The anxiety surrounding internet privacy partly stems from the fact that we feel ashamed of completely exposing ourselves to society. This shame emerges naturally and genetically. We feel its bitter pangs of insecurity emerge in our childhood, and likewise, from an early age we try to cover it with a smorgasbord of smug, arrogant, and prideful masks, all in order to maintain our feeling of self-value.
However, when we understand that the same fundamental nature exists in all of us — the human ego — then we can quickly realize that we have nothing to be ashamed of, and nothing to hide.
What is the human ego? It is a natural, “devilish” force that motivates us to benefit ourselves at others’ expense. It starts by driving us to look great among people, and then goes much further to make us incite, manipulate, exploit and think negatively about others, so we can build ourselves on their ruin.
Ironically, while we think that following the ego’s demands to profit at other people’s expense will fulfill us, we eventually come to the opposite realization: that it works to everyone’s detriment, ours included.
For over a decade, I’ve been discussing the fact that our world is in an escalating crisis. We have reached a stage in our development where the egoistic intent behind our every desire, thought and action, can no longer lead us towards meaningful fulfillment. Thus, on personal, social, ecological, and economic scales, in every area of human engagement, we experience growing problems that appear all the more irresolvable: more depression, stress, anxiety, social division, xenophobia, extremism, as well as increasing economic and ecological instability.
But of all the above, the problem of internet privacy beautifully exemplifies the unique globally interconnected and interdependent situation we have today. On the one hand, we’re globally interconnected through technologies like the internet, and on the other hand, since the ego aims to benefit itself at other people’s expense, we find our behaviors under constant surveillance in order for advertisers to profit from us as much as possible.
Think of how two politicians can look neat and respectable, behave courteously, smile and shake hands with each other, all the while holding cutthroat intentions to manipulate each other as much as possible — the same goes for the internet: underlying very friendly and pleasant-looking websites are tracking codes that mark your behavior, save your information, and provide it to people who can use it to target and follow you with whatever they want to push onto you.
Why Regulations Won’t Solve the Internet Privacy Issue… and What Can
We’ve seen the commonplace scenario for dealing with situations like these many times: new regulation policy is proposed, followed by a struggle between who benefits most from the policy — the companies or the people — and eventually some kind of regulation is adopted. Then, the problem merely mutates to take on another form, because it wasn’t resolved at its root: the overblown ego that demands self-benefit at others’ expense.
Regulations will not alleviate the anxiety surrounding internet privacy. What we need instead is a special kind of education and training.
We need to develop a new perspective on how the ego operates our every desire, thought and movement, and see it as a foreign pressure that doesn’t belong to us. That is, we need to identify that our ego is not our independent selves. By distinguishing this force from ourselves, we can then work against it in order to balance it with an opposite, positive force from nature, which humanity truly needs.
That positive force is the profound, innate connection shared by all human beings. Discovering it requires certain ingredients:
1. A guide who already knows how to tap into the positive force of connection and use it to balance the negative force of the ego.
2. A society, or at least a small group, that learns and exercises how to positively connect, in order to interface with the positive force of connection among its members, which would serve to balance everyone’s ego.
Regular engagement in such connection-enriching experiences benefits us twofold: First, we satisfy our ego’s demands, as we become respected and appreciated for our contribution to such an environment. Secondly, the environment we build is warm and friendly, infusing its members with happiness, confidence and security.
Today our egos are like wild horses bumping into each other. By engaging in connection-enriching experiences, we learn how to tame these horses, become their masters, control them with both hands on the reins, and start being able to aim all that horsepower in a positive direction: to strengthen and spread the positive force of connection that can balance and guide the negative force of the ego.
But if society in general is egoistic, and we try to become altruistic, doesn’t it mean that we make ourselves vulnerable to being trampled on by those wild horses? It does indeed seem that way to our egos, but this narrow view fails to take into account that nature is an integrated system and by balancing our egos with nature’s positive force, we invite a new constructive quality into our lives, which neutralizes the negative attitude toward us, deflecting a lot of harm from us to begin with.
Time to Participate in the Most Natural Method Ever
The method of balancing and guiding the human ego by tapping into the natural force of connection holds universal importance and appeal. In fact, this method comes from nature itself, and we’ve already experienced it involuntarily and unconsciously. Today, we simply need to start implementing it consciously.
Since we were an embryo in our mother’s womb, nature’s systems worked to develop and form us into a human baby capable of exiting our mother and entering the world. Then, through infancy and childhood, on one hand, we started becoming exposed to all kinds of environmental disturbances, and on the other hand, we were handed nature’s protective forces in the form of parents, siblings, relatives, and friends. The more we grew up, the more independent and remote we became from the positive force. By the time we reached adulthood, it is as if the positive force left us, and we were faced only with the negative force, which continues inflating to this day.
Therefore, today’s balancing act requires our conscious realization of this method in which nature operates on us, and our full participation in infusing society with that same kind of warm, friendly and caring force that we felt from those natural players toward us as we grew up.
I would jumpstart this method by creating an internet space free from any profit motives. In this space, I would develop a virtual community consisting of groups, learning, activities, and exercises that guide each one of its members toward the attainment of nature’s positive force of connection, which will empower, enliven, and inspire people in this network to strengthen and share the positive connection they attain.
Even just starting this process with the right ingredients in place would fuel us with completely new feelings of purpose and motivation. All we need is to plug into a connection-enriching network, and we’ll experience a significant upgrade to a whole new level of balance. One way or another, we will have to learn how to balance and guide the human ego toward the good of human society. I wish this happens sooner rather than later.
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