Dear Poland, we owe it to Zygmunt Bauman

Despite the hypothetical reality that its title might be easily turned into a meme, Liquid Modernity starts with a fundamental discussion on a pressing issue of the 21st century in its 21st year: the oscillations between freedom and security. Prominent philosopher, Bauman departed before he could analyze what a worldwide lockdown looked and sounded like, but he might have felt something was coming, smoking his pipe and thinking about the future of what people called social media. And the internet, he said, in an interview for “Philosophical Coffee” (an event sponsored by the Power and Electricity Provider of São Paulo, CPFL), was a place where the remarkable was not how easy it was to connect, but rather, to disconnect. In Hegelian fashion, he pointed out, also during this interview, that having large amounts of friends had become a reason for “boasting”.

What Bauman didn’t say, because online relationships were very new, “You’ve got mail” was the only reference we had of a long distance relationship, way before “Her”, “Black Mirror” or even Polish Netflix series “Sexify”, was that security was key in how we would manage relationships in the future. But one stretch further, and you’re discussing whether or not it’s “secure” to watch pornography, and in some places, the very notion of “safe sex” is reprimanded, because sexual intercourse is only allowed after the Holy Sacrament of Marriage, and serves the purpose of creating a family, another key factor in society’s debates — in the realms of the inconvenient or the ideal. An online user can make a thousand friends by clicking on friends of friends and saying hello because that’s a socially acceptable procedure, custom or whatever you wanna call it; do not, however, talk to strangers. Enter Facebook, the big defender of privacy, accountability, bank accounts, dating, messaging, photography, advertising, retail, auto and even philosophy courses, all in one. Oh yeah, and elections too.

With 87 billion dollars in profits during a pandemic that started in China, while the country developed a new mobile operational system and a faster and renewed technology for data connections, which invoked security questions especially in the US and the UK, how much did Hacker Lane, if not Downing Street, spend on security? Users can limit who interacts (a method Twitter reciprocated), set up the not so popular two-factor authentication, strengthen their passwords, review devices allowed to access the platform, choose who reads your posts (close friends on Instagram stories, private accounts, optional information, with the exception of your email and phone number); Snapchat asks your precise location, but people don’t like to talk about competition — and why is that? Aren’t we all home watching TV? Or did someone want to meet people instead of watching another soccer game or the opinion piece of an old time journalist from a new network on cable? If your app crashed, you signed in a document saying you accepted to send reports with every bit of your activity described; if the report doesn’t help, you’ll keep using a compromised device, and when things start to feel a little bit too weird to be real, maybe you’ll think someone stole your identity. The blessing of VPN.

The freedom to meet whoever we want is a beautiful concept; the details of these magical interactions are not. Policy is made based on some of these, but they favor company immunity and user punishment, with the tools we’re supposed to be provided for the best user experience, and the truth is they’re used for the best marketing campaigns and profits at the top corporate levels. If there’s nobody to point out how ridiculous it is that nudity is paralleled with “profanity” (and the very notion of what that is), let’s remind people of the vast amounts of violations of rules perpetrated before social media was in charge of all things. The last conversation I had with a Russian girl happened to include the words “fuck Putin”. The last conversation I had with an American girl ended with “stop texting me”, and on the next day, two computers wouldn’t boot Windows. Are we really free to express how we feel? And most importantly, do people care, and have they felt the same?

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