662 V O L . 7 5 P A R T 5 S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 7 THE ADVOCATE
The Dalai Lama has a Twitter account. Former U.S. president Barack
Obama is number three on the list of top ten “twitaholics” according to
twitaholic.com, with 92 million followers, almost twice as many as Kim
Kardashian West has. Each minute, 300 hours’ worth of new video content
is uploaded to YouTube.6
Those who have never experienced life without the Internet (a group
whose members are known as “digital natives”7) are savvy online. This is
unsurprising considering that children and young adults8 are very heavy
users of the “world wide web” and social media. One study in 2014 found
that Canadian students9 almost universally have access to the Internet, with
ninety-nine per cent of children getting online outside of school. Just under
a third of ten- to 12-year-olds have a Facebook account, while sixteen per
cent of them also have a Twitter account. By the time the children reach
Grade 6, sixty-seven per cent have Facebook accounts, and this number
increases to ninety-five per cent when they reach Grade 11. Almost half of
youths between Grades 7 and 11 are Twitter account holders. Thirty-eight
per cent of Canadian students report that they have posted online a story or
a piece of artwork they created, and thirty-three per cent have posted a
video or audio clip of themselves.
Many of today’s digital natives make their entrance into the realm of
social media very early, sometimes before they are even born. According to
one study,10 approximately eighty-four per cent of Canadian mothers admitted
to uploading images of their child online, before their child turned two.
Even more astonishingly, eight out of 100 mothers have created social network
profiles for their babies, and nine out of 100 mothers have registered
e-mail addresses for their babies.
These social media platforms provide invaluable tools for communication,
networking, information dissemination and self-expression. However,
how many of the some 32 million Canadian Internet users11 have fully considered
the tenacity and infallibility of the Internet’s memory? How many
have considered publicly posting content in light of the Internet’s “digital
eternity” or “digital oblivion”12? And not just for “posts” or “tweets” that users
actively release into the universe, but also the plethora of information that
is collected quietly in the background without any active user participation?
13 Facebook and Google both use mathematical algorithms to examine
closely the online activity of each Internet user, in order to personalize the
content that each individual user sees, including ads and other users’
posts.14 Users of Amazon have invariably seen the section entitled “Inspired
by Your Browsing History”.