Whir, Ring, Bleep, Snap, Hiss, Click, Ping…..it’s the age of technological gadgets! As they get smaller, lighter, and faster, amalgamated to fulfill users’ tech needs with fewer and fewer button-presses; they slink past every barrier, into every realm of life – quite literally. Communication, entertainment, storage, or knowledge – these rectangular pieces of technology, be they iPods, cell-phones, Blackberrys, Kindles or digital cameras – fulfill all these goals with an ease that boggles the mind and pleasures the senses.
However, as the phone, music player, movie player/recorder, camera and computer combine in sleeker forms to serve us at every moment in our lives, be it during our gym workout or our morning shower, saving time and energy by giving us what we want faster and sooner, we can not help but accept the not-so-apparent but still-there flip side of these gadgets. For this scribe, the greatest drawback is the invasion of personal privacy.
I have "been there, done that". The homepage on Facebook says what it does every other day: “So-and-so was tagged in an album”. Yawn, I’m bored, so…..I click. The photograph shows a group of friends at a restaurant, beach, or dinner party. I unassumingly peruse the picture before something else ‘clicks’ in place. Doing a double-take, I recognize another person in the background, caught on camera draping herself all over some guy wearing a……yikes! I hurriedly close the browser. Her impression of naiveté and innocence comes crashing down. Embarrassed with my new-found knowledge, wishing I didn’t know what I just found out, I have no one else to blame except myself for viewing a picture that was not meant for my eyes. But wait……the notification was on my homepage; it was my ‘friend’ who got tagged in the picture, so am I really the culprit for clicking on it? Don’t these people know that the pictures for which they pose will inevitably be uploaded on Facebook, and find their way before the eyes of the friends of the friends of the people tagged therein?
Forget Facebook. One can’t help be queasy about the several kinds of digitally-enhancing photo software that can wreak havoc on a photograph nowadays. The head of a person can be placed on another’s body, blemishes can be removed, or other more sleazy things done (yeah, let your imagination run wild with this one). You can’t help imagine what someone who wants to mar your reputation could do with a photograph of you with software such as Adobe Photoshop. You cringe at the thought.
Then there’s the mass-emailing: “December 2008 Trip abroad!” screams the email subject like as you spot, with dismay, the “paper clip” next to it, indicating the hefty attachment inside. You decide to download one or two pictures just out of curiosity, but give up after a few tries; it is taking just too long! On the next phone call, though, you are pointedly asked,
“So, did you like the photographs I emailed?”
“Umm…..yes, they were nice!”, implying the two ones you actually viewed.
What about the caustic sarcasm and comments that these photographs draw from random viewers? The sender probably doesn’t realize that it’s not just their precious cutie that will be beheld with relish. The female viewers will acutely take in the décor of the room, the probable price-range of the sofas, the gas cooking-range in the kitchen vaguely visible in the background, the brand of the baby’s bassinet, and the outfit worn by the proud mama.
“Oh my, hasn’t she become fat?!”
“Check out the dining room. This is the first time I have seen that table; it means they have two dining tables!” [*(seethe, seethe)*]
“That’s what she wants us to see. Who cares about the baby?”
Oh my. The jealousy and competitive rancor is baffling.
The male viewers on the other hand….well, it’s anyone’s easy guess what they will be looking at.
“Hmm. She looks good after giving birth. She was always a looker.” [*lust, lust*]
But what do they type as a comment under the picture? “Hey, congrats, your baby is SOOOOOOO cute!”
Well, I digress. It’s not the technological gadgets that are to blame here, then, are they? Like every other invention, it’s their users who either benefit from them lawfully, using them for overall progressive good work, or give in to pleasure-seeking desires and use them in ways that could raise others’ eyebrows about whether such ‘tech advancement’ really is good for the world or not. As for me, I am not as against the concept of digital photographs themselves, if approaching the issue from a strictly Shari’ah Law point-of-view, but am more wary of the idea of someone else owning an image of me, my children or the inside of my home, to store, upload, send-via-email, share on the web otherwise, or tamper with, as they please.
A prime example of such ill-use of these devices is the video-taping of a certain leader’s hanging, the footage of which was sent from cell phone to cell phone all over the world within hours, with minor viewers watching the graphic video and “trying it out” on other minors. 15 resulting deaths were reported globally, as a result of the quick, worldwide transfer of this violent video, one that should not have been viewed by youngsters in the first place. Another example is the video coverage of a non-Muslim girl, whose head was bashed in with a stone by her male family members, in an honor-killing in Iraq. The graphic coverage, taped by the male onlookers with their cell-phones during the extremely public execution, showed the cold-blooded murder from different angles; the videos were uploaded on the Internet, causing horror to whoever clicked on them without expecting the next few hours of their life to be spent convulsed in disgust and horror at beholding the bashed-in face of a 17-year-old innocent. It was eventually reported that more honor killings took place in the world, as a direct result of the wide viewing of these videos. That is, other barbarians’ confidence was boosted by watching their likes so easily get rid of their ‘philandering’ daughter or sister in plain public view; it emboldened them to do the same with their own ‘loose’ women.
So, the next time flashes come my way at a public gathering or at a family party, you’ll know which way I’ll run. As I imagine a picture of mine appearing on a random computer screen miles and miles away, on the other side of the globe, beheld by someone who classifies as the friend of a friend of a “friend” on my Facebook list:
“Sadaf Farooqi was tagged in an album”….
“Hmm, so she’s a full naqabi now? ……”
No way, Jose! Ciao.