During my digital activities at some point, I started to wonder what happened to my activities that were not displayed on the screen. What happens to what I write when no visual reaction is triggered? Where do the results of my activities go when they are invisible?
Soon I realized I turned the world on its head by this question. In real life, all my activities disappear. If I wave my hands or jump up and down – where would this be registered?
Activities that are not being registered feel senseless. If I do not remember – if my brain does not register – what use does an activity have? If my life is not registered – what use do I have?
I feel that the history of mankind is a history of trying to register reality and thus give it meaning – from the oldest cave drawings to the current online domain. Our religions stipulate that there is a bigger-than-us power that registers our deeds and judges them – this bigger-than-us power thus gives meaning to us. Even the non-religious tell us that we live on as long as we will be remembered by others: the registration of us gives us meaning.
The digital domain is the best invention so far as to register our actions. It promises to let us live forever, whether as an account that survives our death or as a software program that will enable our brains to keep on functioning when our bodies are gone.
Because we interpret the registration of our deeds as meaning, we hand over the power to give meaning to our lives to others, whether that is a higher power, those who survive us, secret services, or Big Tech companies.
This wish for meaning always starts biting itself in its tail. If we can have meaning because we are registering our deeds, then why shouldn’t we be able to use this meaning in the form of registered activities to change other people’s being? Think blackmail. Think Cambridge Analytica.
In our online communication, we should be aware of this. The possibility that it is registered both gives the communication a priori meaning and makes it a weapon that can be used against us. What makes it different from communication in reality is that third parties have access to our registered online activities.
Privacy compliant communicators ideally remove third party access. They hand over the power to treat us as objects that can be thematized only to a limited group of people that were chosen by us, just as in the real world. This is why privacy is such a big deal in online communication.