Theme of Privacy in 1984 by George Orwell


Edward Snowden once stated “I don't want to live in a world where there is no privacy, and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity”. Privacy is an essential human need that maintains our mental stability, but when stripped away, leads citizens to become soulless beings such as Winston in George Orwell's 1984. Orwell demonstrates that privacy is a key to maintaining a healthy democracy by showing the dystopian society where party members’ every move is tracked. In both communities, the lack of regulations protecting people's privacy bring about grave consequences. Current privacy regulations combined with the negative physiological effects create complacency that places the  U.S closer to 1984’s dystopian society.

When the natural desire of humans to have privacy is stripped away, severe physiological impacts follow.  Through the use of technology such as social media, the United States continues to invade its citizens' privacy–– ultimately promoting conformation.  Oftentimes, “If a person practices role-conformity faithfully and long enough, he will lose the capacity to recognize as his own, those experiences-of impulses and feelings-that are incongruent with his desired role” (Jourard 3). In such circumstances, the societal standards, often set and regulated by the government, makes one with individual and free ideas feel alienated. One’s confirmation process is often driven by isolation and results in the loss of one's anonymity and individuality. By comparison, an almost identical structure is seen in 1984 where the community encourages conformity through the party’s cultural standards. Similar scenarios are evident within our society's social media expectations. In both cases, the transformation places governing roles in the perfect position to overrule and create a dystopia with no privacy as demonstrated in 1984. Those in favor of strict government rule may disregard the concept of conformity through governmental standards by viewing social media as an example of the benefits claiming, “Social media may provide individuals with a platform that overcomes barriers of distance and time, allowing them to connect and reconnect with others and thereby expand and strengthen their in-person networks and interactions'' (Harvard School of Public Health).In reality, social media has created dangerous expectations pressuring many, and been a major cause for the extended invasion in privacy. In any case, the disadvantages of the excessive rule outweigh the few advantages leaving one to deal with the consequences of a lack of privacy. In the case of 1984, one learns the following about governmental systems, “Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought” (Orwell 46).  Government rule, in both societies, has made it intentionally harder for one to remain anonymous and avoid personal change by making it more practical to do just the opposite. Such strategies are often associated with the totalitarian rule seen in 1984.

To move forward and advance as a culture, the U.S. must address and tackle this invasion of privacy. Edward Snowden, an ex NIA agent who exposed the NIA for its invasive privacy technology, brought this issue to the forefront. Although controversial, “the wake of the Edward Snowden affair, it's clear the biggest threat to privacy isn't Google or Facebook, but government agencies who can monitor the communications of citizens with a keystroke” (Rogers Media). These incidents demonstrate the true threat to democracy and its frightening ability to manipulate the population. Snowden opened citizens' eyes to the true power of a government much like 1984 where the government has vast authority over its members. Proper government rule may be observed in Orwell's 1984 where he explains the surplus of privacy granted to inner-party members. Similar motifs should be placed upon the government to act towards its people. It is crucial to question a government's ability to act in such presumptuous instances as a collective nation to protect our democracy. The opposing side may claim “...bringing in new technology backed by data can help keep the law enforcement agencies keep a step ahead of the criminals'' (Syracuse University). Such supporters argue it is a government’s role to protect the people, which requires a knowledge of the population. Sometimes this is necessary for safety reasons, however, to know our every detail and movement surpasses the threshold of knowledge with good intent. In comparison, a government's true motives can be seen throughout 1984.  If one concept is understood from Orwell's novel, it is that “The Party [and governmental systems as a whole] seeks power entirely for its own sake. [They] are not interested in the good of others; [they] are interested solely in power” (Orwell 217). In other words, the information collected to better the nation can be put to use in opposition to one’s regards. The instant the government collects one's personal information is the instant one is a subject to them. This structure allows for a subtle ungranted power to be gained, often the true intention and beginning stages of a tyrannical government.

In 1984 one saw many parallels between the oppressive environment and that of the U.S’s society. In both, the pattern of confirmation and a loss of anonymity, these manipulative methods transition the nation away from democracy and into a system of tyranny. To avoid the physiological impacts, one must first remain vigilant by questioning the true motives of the government. Taking a stance against such regulations to change these policies will allow citizens to avoid 1984’s dystopia.

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