By Fr George Adimike
In this era, as the world grapples with scapegoating the digital citizens, this caveat seems necessary and compelling. All internet users starting from the digital natives (the iGeneration) through the digital pioneers (Millennials or the Generation Y) to the digital migrants (Generation X) should bear in mind that the Internet neither forgives nor forgets. Similarly, the digital strangers (Gen. Boomers) can and do also experience the boon or bane of the Internet.
Everything one enjoys in life has a price. There is no free lunch even in Freetown, for, generally, someone pays. This reality informs why we need to be careful in our indulgence with the Internet. Every action has its consequence; nothing is free. Except for the Christian faith, which teaches that salvation is free because Christ has paid in full, every other thing in life has a cost. Therefore, one pays for everything else, somehow, somewhere and sometime; and the Internet is no exception. You pay! The Internet has no debt cancellation program. It never forgives. It never forgets. Beware!
Besides the fact that someone sees and can locate whoever is using any device that has a tiny front camera (cell phone, tablet, laptop or desktop), you leave digital footprints each time you use the Internet. Is it not surprising that often the search engines and online marketing platforms suggest to you things similar to what you have already searched for or bought? This fact is possible because you leave digital footprints.
These footprints are indelible on the Internet so long as the Internet exists. Deleting is a pure scam because it gives you the impression that the stuff is gone. But it remains. It is gone from one level of internet operations but remains at other deeper layers. All our digital footprints and records are all stored in the cyber cloud. A simple analysis of your activities on the Internet for the past ten years will shock you the extent the Internet remembers.
With artificial intelligence, the Internet can write your biography with surprising details probably only known to your intimate circles, especially your confessors and best friends. The Internet keeps tracks; it follows you and introduces you to your interviewers, prospective employers, suitors and contract awarding authorities. It acts like a spell that spells the lives of unsuspecting fellows. Undoubtedly, the Internet has assumed the status of a critical stakeholder in the lives of many, who, often, are not mindful of its character.
God always forgives, humans forgive sometimes, but the Internet never forgives. While the human mind is a faculty that forgets, the Internet never forgets. With its alluring charm, the Internet ruins the lives of some who, out of youthful exuberance, depression, the euphoria of pleasure or power, untrained emotion or sheer indiscipline, engage in shameful, reprehensible and disgusting acts online. Some of these unwholesome acts could be criminal and fraudulent transactions or even uploading of nude pictures and videos, thus succumbing to exploitation through cyber-sex. In so doing, they barter their peace and happiness.
It is common knowledge that those behind the internet platforms engage in a sort of digital voyeurism, thus unethically prying on users. The hi-tech guys and digital eavesdroppers follow you about such that cyber-world is not a haven. Each time you visit any site, you leave footprints and can always be located. These footprints cannot be erased. Any website you have visited is retained and kept in memory for you.
Deletion is a scam; it is deceptive. It is also a fact that with digital technology, ubiquitous online spies and hackers have made worthless the concepts of obscurity and privacy. The internet voyeurism by the proprietors of the cyber-tech companies and smart guys out there has made the Internet not safe for any person with disreputable intents. They use data from you to advance their businesses.
The Internet makes users, many of whom firm their lives on the pillars of social media, easily susceptible to blackmail. The young ones innocently abandon themselves to various forms of atrocities ignorant of their repercussions and ramifications. The Internet tells the world of your deeds, good or evil. As such, the consequences of stripping or dancing naked for money or engaging in online fraud (yahoo) on one’s personality in later life are dire since the Internet remembers.
Not a few have missed dream jobs, wonderful opportunities or privileges because of unconscionable acts like lying in connection to politics, uploading nude pictures, and engaging in all manners of evil online. The Internet leaves them devastated.
Yet responsible use of the Internet can be a boon for a young person such that it is unlikely to have a smartphone and be poor. A stitch in time saves one from falling prey to the gripping destructive ramifications of the abuse and misuse of the Internet. Rightly said, unexamined use of the Internet and irresponsible indulgence with the social media stages psycho-socio-emotional turbulence that upsets progress and ruins a person.
While engaging the Internet, be mindful that your activities today can work against you in near, distant or eternal future when you might have grown or changed. What you do with and on the Internet when you are unknown can promote or destroy you when most people know you. Refrain from doing or writing stupid things. And avoid foolish and silly trends to prevent shame, regret, defamation and pain in future.
The Internet never forgets; so be cautious of your activities on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Snapchat, Whatsapp and Pinterest. While engaging in social media, project into the future, so as not to allow the Internet doom your dream. Indeed, some suffer dire consequences because of their naivety, carelessness or ignorance. Keep in mind always: the Internet neither forgives nor forgets.
Pray for my dad, Patrick Adimike, who died on the 11th of June. May he find peace and happiness in the embrace of the Eternal Father’s welcome, amen.