By Anissa Alifandi,  Festival Communications Intern at the British Science Association


“Did you see how many likes she got?!”

“That cheesecake you had last week looked amaaaazing (heart eyes face)”

A glimpse of my typical messages nowadays. I guarantee your messages look the same. But why are we so obsessed about sharing each and every part of our lives with the internet? And why are our friends so keen to know? Gone are the days of the traditional ‘catch up’ when we used to actually explain our recent activities to the other party – now they’re already aware of where you’ve been, who you’ve seen and what you were wearing. And at which party too.

Apple’s App store charts show that Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram still dominate our phones and there’s no sign of our social media ‘over disclosure’ habits slowing. If anything we are more eager than ever to edit/filter/crop our photos before uploading a whole album dedicated to ‘Recent Antics’ or posting inappropriate Buzzfeed links to the friends we want to expose after questionable images in said album.

By and large last year’s iCloud hack hasn’t really affected our online presence and that is probably because most of us don’t identify with the ‘celebrity’ or ‘TV personality’ label. The majority of us therefore have nothing to worry about, right? Ben Chanan’s Cyberbully (one-off drama starring Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams) aired in January depicting a worryingly realistic truth of cyberattacks; they can happen to anyone. Williams’ character’s Twitter is taken over by the hacker whilst her best friend’s personal photographs are posted for all to see. Just an everyday teenager whose social media behaviour is normal by all standards, but goes through a panic-inducing ordeal as she tries to bargain with the perpetrator. As with any investment, the more we give away, the more we have to lose.

Cyberbullying itself is not a criminal offence in many countries but the iCloud hacker is likely to face legal action through privacy and computer misuse charges from top celebrity lawyers. The possible ways in which the internet can be used for harm is indeed an ever growing problem as the real and cyber worlds collide. It seems that every week another young celebrity responds aggressively to a troll or posts a provocative Instagram to fuel a fued. And this is only what is reported in the gossip columns. There is likely to be megabytes of damning data on the rich and famous waiting to be released.

This year’s British Science Festival will probe into the world of cybersecurity in “The many faces of cybercrime”. From local hacks that can happen to an individual, to threats to national security from terrorist organisations, the danger of unwanted persons infiltrating private and ‘secure’ networks is very much present. The panel uncovers the concerns of the industry whilst (hopefully) telling us what preventative measures can be taken to protect our laptops, tablets, phones and general lives.

The internet may know everything about our present and past selves but even it cannot predict how our cyber personalities will evolve. The technologies of the future are those being developed today and who knows what software companies are cooking up in their (computer) labs? Maybe FaceSwap will become so advanced that I can predict what my own baby will look like. PR and advertising could create strategies so extraordinary that we extend our social media presence beyond this world, traversing the depths of the solar system with Vines and Snapchat stories of the latest events and products. In a way this is already happening; I mean you can’t have left your nest if you’ve not yet seen the Philae Lander tweets. But SETI are the pros, having transmitted signals for decades now. Where us terrestrial lot are waiting on every Follow Request, it seems that either the aliens are blanking us, or they just haven’t checked their inbox yet. But is it right for us to introduce social media to the rest of the universe or should we be protecting them from the uncertainty of not getting any likes or retweets?! Some of the SETI team will be at this year’s British Science Festival discussing exactly this – how are they justifying the bombardment of space with messages? More importantly, how are they coping with no getting replies? I must say this lack of insecurity is very unheard of in my circle…

In the meantime I shall continue to mull over these thoughts as I peruse Tumblr for ideas and inspiration.  I’ll probably post many philosophical tweets as I near a conclusion of my own, so stay tuned. 

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