Belfast Telegraph

Liz Kearney: That's the funny thing about your privacy... once you give it away for free, it can be hard to get it back

High profiles: Coleen Rooney (left) and Rebecca Vardy (centre) were at the centre of a very public Instagram leak storm
High profiles: Coleen Rooney (left) and Rebecca Vardy (centre) were at the centre of a very public Instagram leak storm

By Liz Kearney

I'm trying to get my head round an interview I'm reading in one of the papers. Someone called Joe Sugg - nope, me neither, but Google tells me he's a YouTube star - is describing a typical Saturday with his girlfriend.

It all sounds very pleasant; the day starts with a morning exercise class, followed by a visit to the park, a quick boat trip on the lake and a spot of lunch. So far, so winningly normal.

After having a lovely first half of the day boulevarding round town and generally behaving like love's young dream, Joe and his girlfriend then return to their house where, he says, they proceed to spend the afternoon uploading a video to YouTube of themselves playing pranks on one another.

That is the precise point where Joe Sugg's idea of a nice Saturday and mine aggressively diverge, never to be reunited.

At 40, I'm part of a generation that will simply never understand why making a film in which you star and then broadcasting it online is an enjoyable way to spend a weekend afternoon.

Now, you might argue that this is how Joe Sugg makes his living and therefore it's not unreasonable that it's how he spends his Saturdays.

Of course, these days it's not just professional YouTubers who are hell-bent on recording and broadcasting every moment of their lives through their various social media channels.

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At the weekend, I went for a wander in the park. The sun was shining, the sky was dazzling and the gardens were looking their spectacular autumnal best, so at first I wasn't surprised to see a serious-looking young man, sporting a raft of top-notch camera equipment, clicking merrily away.

'Ah', I thought, 'I have stumbled upon a professional photoshoot for a gardening magazine. How nice for the photographer. he's been blessed with such a fabulous October afternoon.

'I'd better get out of the way of his tripod.'

And then I looked up and saw the actual object of the photographer's attention: not the autumnal terraces, but his girlfriend. They weren't professionals at all, simply tourists going to extremes to get an Instagrammable image of themselves.

I find this behaviour baffling, but for the Instagram generation, life is now just one long photoshoot. And the cultural divide between those who painstakingly document their day-to-day existence like this and those of us who would rather chew off our own toes is a vast chasm of generational misunderstanding.

Jennifer Aniston, who at 50 is firmly on my side of this divide, made headlines when she joined Instagram last week, but she had long abstained from social media - and for very good reason.

"The one thing I have is maintaining this little circle of sanctity that's my own," she once explained.

"If I'm sitting here posting something about my dogs, or I'm boomeranging my coffee mug in the morning, that's just giving away one more piece of something that is mine."

Even the very nature of privacy and what it consists of has changed in the digital age. The shift was neatly summed up by conflicting reactions to the Coleen Rooney/Wagatha Christie affair.

Rooney has for many years published photos of her family, her children, her holidays, her clothes and her friends online, and she has an Instagram profile with hundreds of thousands of followers.

It was, of course, her own private Instagram, which just a few hundred followers can view, that was the source of the by now infamous leaks.

But just what constitutes a private social media platform? These are nuances that might seem obvious to digital natives, but to an older generation they are laughably unclear.

There are many who simply believe that, if you share 99% of your life online, you'll have a difficult time keeping the remaining 1% to yourself.

As older celebrities like Jennifer Aniston know already, having the world hooked on your every move might seem appealing to YouTubers, but it can rapidly become a prison.

Once you've given it away so freely, privacy is something you can't just buy back.

Belfast Telegraph


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