Repeat after me: once you post something online, even on Snapchat, it is neither private nor temporary.
The latest wave of news in an endless ocean of these sex/tech stories comes out of Wentzville, MO., a town 40 miles from St. Louis, where a mother could face up to a year in jail for a Snapchat photo taken by her daughter. Here’s the scenario in which the literal and figurative meanings of “hot water” crash head-on: a mother and two teenage daughters get into their hot tub topless, one daughter snaps photo of sister and mom, mom tells daughter to delete photo, and daughter posts to Snapchat, thinking it will self-destruct after friend views it.
Yes, photos on Snapchat have a very short lifespan. But within those few short seconds of digital life, the recipient can easily take a screenshot—preserving the photo forever. So as these stories tend to go, the hot tub photo circulated around school and eventually found its way into the hands of authorities, who charged the mother with child endangerment.
Of course, getting in trouble for inappropriate use of technology isn’t limited to well-meaning mothers and teens. Remember Weinergate Part Un and Part Deux? Here is one of the brightest minds in politics, a guy who couldn’t keep his sexual conquests strictly offline. His use of Twitter to send dirty photos put him in a serious pickle. Facing stiff challenges and a shriveling marriage, his constituents urged him to pull out of the races for congress and mayor.
I love technology. It changes so quickly and never gets boring. But while technological advances do lead to greater productivity and an improved quality of life, they often carry a serious risk that didn’t exist previously.
The speed of today’s technology doesn’t give us nearly as much time to consider any ramifications for hitting the “Return” key. Especially in a state of arousal; it’s pretty difficult for anything resembling logic to enter into the brain when we’re being influenced by another part of the body.
The immediate availability of smartphones equipped with cameras and access to the Internet, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, combined with an illogical state of arousal, makes for a lethal combination. Think of all the leaked photos that have surfaced online in the past few years.
Consider what would have had to run through Weiner’s mind had these scandals occurred 15 years ago: he would have had to go through the trouble of pulling out his bulky camera, take the pictures, remove the film, bring the roll to Wal-Mart, get them developed, put them in an envelope and send them to the female fan of choice. That’s a lot of work. Somewhere along the way, I’ll bet that the voice of reason would have eventually taken over.
As gadgets get smarter and become bundled with more and more goodies, a small piece of our privacy pie is taken away. Everything we do and say online is becoming increasingly scrutinized, and now, with even more of our info being stored online, it’s only going to get more serious.
I’ve said it many times before but it bears consistent repetition: Think twice before hitting “send.” Your job, your marriage, or your freedom may depend on it.