Why Should We Protect our Digital Identities?

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The World Bank has defined Digital Identity as a collection of electronically captured and stored identity attributes that uniquely describe a person within a given context and are used for electronic transactions. Traditionally, a physical identity was assigned to an individual/entity in the form of ID-cards, ration cards, driver’s license, etc to facilitate movement of people, goods and services, funds and other resources. This ensured that an individual/ entity is who/what they claimed to be. With technological progressions, identity was digitised as interactions and transactions advanced to the digital medium through internet and computers. To adapt to this, attributes such as biometric details, phone numbers and social security numbers were electronically encoded to allow the identification of an individual or an entity in the world of internet.

Digital identity has had a significant effect on almost every sector and industry in the global economy. It has created transparency, traceability and coherence in the functioning of the economic order. Since it is easier to identify individuals within and across borders, governments can effectively provide welfare services, entities and individuals can promptly carry out financial transactions and people can undertake cross-border travels with lower risks.

Social inclusion is the effective outcome of having digitised identity systems. While infrastructure for digital identity are in place in most of the developed countries such as US, Canada and Europe, India launched the Aadhar card, in the largest identity program in 2016. The program aims to assign a vast majority of its population a unique nationally accepted identification and allow them easy access to certain essential services such as cooking gas, water connections, healthcare etc.

Digital identity has also evolved paperless transactions and streamlined business processes by simplifying identity authentication which earlier obstructed cross border trade and transfer of resources. Moreover, debit and credit cards, one click mobile payments has upped the performance of the financial sector.

Along the lines of verification, digital identity has ensured secured travel for legitimate travelers and further enhanced the travel industry. It has largely controlled travel threats which emerge from militant activities, civil wars, insurgencies and terrorism.

 

 

Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

 

Another kind of digital identity was created when social media took over almost two generations under its wings with the advent of smartphones. With the ubiquitous nature of the cyberworld it has been impossible to stay aloof of Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, WeChat, Weibo, Renren and even LinkedIn to connect and interact worldwide. This identity is shaped by the online behaviour through interactions, clicks, games, purchases and searches.

[mkdf_blockquote text=”In recent times, these activities have transformed as participants for e-commerce business serving us in return for advertisements based on our behaviour.” title_tag=”h2″ width=””]

While we physically owned our ID-cards in the past and used it at our discretion for face-to-face authentication, the digitisation of identity managed to loosen this control. At every point of consent, we click “I agree” and place our private information in the hands of the service providers including the financial institutions, governments and private players such as social media companies, merchants, media application developers, various payment points etc. While a certain trust in the governments exists underlying the commitment to a social contract and their permanence, the use and store of our data encoded under a digitised identity remains ambiguous. Furthermore, we share private data across social media conversations, and believe that the information we provide at the time of signing up for these services is harmless — a fair trade for free use.  However, virtual world activities have influenced more than just consumerist behaviour.

There are several instances which highlight that private information was leaked by compromising the security of digital identity systems. Snowden’s disclosures on NSA spying, Hillary Clinton’s use of private email servers, the alleged Russian hacking of the Democratic National Congress’s servers, the possible plundering of 500 million Yahoo accounts, the Aadhaar biometrics data breaches are developments that demonstrate that laws have unfortunately not kept pace with the technological developments. Another significant incident that stoked the data protection debate was the recent data breach at Facebook in the Cambridge Analytica incident, reportedly influenced the voting behaviour of hundreds of Americans in favour of the election of President Donald Trump in 2016. It is imperative to understand that digital identity entails majority of the risks that a physical identity card would.

[mkdf_blockquote text=”The lack of legislation to protect digital identity systems and punish the violators renders us vulnerable to identity thefts, illegal transactions, cyber bullying, cyber-attacks, and even unlawful surveillance.” title_tag=”h2″ width=””]

With the use of digital technologies across the world at an all-time high, and internet connectivity to reach over 200 billion devices to the internet by 2020, the vulnerabilities remain significant.

Amidst this, European Union recently implemented the “General Data Protection Regulation” to empower individuals with the rights to demand companies reveal or delete the personal data they hold. It has brought under its ambit almost every company that holds and processes consumer data and further inform the consumer what they are “blindly” consenting to.

Although this law extends itself over a vast area of jurisdiction, until other states implement the relevant legislations and build secured infrastructures, the risks to digital identity will persist. Individually, we can only secure ourselves by making informed choices about consenting to the varied services that the digital world offers.

Shivani Gayakwad is a Volunteer Researcher at One Future Collective and a researcher for Compliance, Forensics and Intelligence at Control Risks India. She has expertise in South Asian politics and interest in women’s menstrual health and financial independence.

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“Do I Look Good Enough in this Picture?” – Selfies, Social Media and Mental Health

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‘Selfitis’ is not a real disease, but the mental health aspects surrounding selfies are not to be taken lightly. 

Selfie, a word that made its way to become the word of the year in 2013, as described by the Oxford English Dictionary is defined as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media” by the same. The obsession with self-portrait photographs which initially began as a trend among the youth quickly gained wider popularity among all age groups. However, a survey found that selfies make up 30% of the photos taken by people aged 18-24 years.

Much of its popularity was attributed to the ease and speed with which photos of oneself could now be taken without the need for mirrors or help from others. The sharp rise in selfie usage was approximately 17000% from 2012 to 2015, which lead to the discovery of the evidence of direct relationships between selfies and self-esteem, self-image, and even narcissism. This created a stir, giving rise to arguments against considering the obsession with selfies as a mental disorder which was aggravated by a hoax created by a parody APA website which stated that obsession with clicking selfies is confirmed to be a mental disorder called “Selfitis”.

It seemed to have taken much of this world by surprise to know that an act of clicking photos of oneself had become a global phenomenon but the sudden importance given to selfies has been supported by accidents, injuries and deaths that have occurred to individuals while in the act. Such recklessness caused by the act of taking selfies has only worsened the negative attention surrounding it. Due to a series of such events and discussions steered by its popularity, intensive research has been made on a variety of topics regarding selfies ranging from the use and gratification of posting them on social media to even calculating the different angles at which they are captured! Few reasons that people click selfies include boredom, to boost self-esteem, to enjoy the perks of social media or to grab others’ attention.

Some people even feel that posting selfies online helps them validate their existence, a reason that blends with the concept of low self-confidence as posting selfies online may end up augmenting their personal insecurities. Obsession with selfies also has biological evidence. Studies have shown an increase in dopamine levels while receiving feedback information from others and behaviors relating to selfie-taking like uploading content online has been strongly related to activities in the sympathetic nervous system. This enhances social communication which when lost eventually will lead to loneliness. Selfies and loneliness have been correlated multiple times with studies that point out to those participants who post more selfies while scoring low on intimacy measures. This directly contradicts the central idea of social media which was initially aimed at building rapport with each other and not decreasing intimacy in relationships.

The interplay between selfies and social media has been an interesting one, highlighting various human characteristics and behaviours. The definition of a selfie does not limit itself to the mere act of people creating a self-portrait but also the critical aspect of sharing the selfie on social media. Uploading selfies on social media provide the most ideal platform for people to portray themselves in a desired manner which will not heighten their social anxiety but will dampen their fear of embarrassment. Digital media, the future of communication, is now being extensively used for information as well as entertainment and hence it has a wide user base. Social media enables us to transmit selfies to virtual locations via hashtags but many argue that hashtags can act as constraints because we end up describing ourselves as metadata.

 

Photo by Bruno Gomiero on Unsplash

Different modes of social media like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr and the most popular selfie destinations – Snapchat and Instagram, help selfie uploaders have access to the opinions, judgments and appraisals of other individuals which in turn provide an opportunity to the uploaders to develop their self-image and identities. This idea correlates with the psychological concept of the “looking glass self” which suggests that we develop our sense of the self based on the perceptions of those we interact with. The frailty of this practice is that the youth especially, have begun to feel that their best, singled out selfie is the perfect representation of their online selves. Over a period of time, they become indifferent to the fact that they are actually looking at themselves while viewing their selfies and in this process, end up creating multiple versions of themselves. They also fall a prey to the temptation of manipulating their selfies by using “filters” that accentuate our desired features. They have the liberty to tweak their content to their liking so as to remain consistent with this self and end up creating a separate identity or identities that contradict with their real self in this process. This is the image with which they want to identify and strive to become eventually.

Immediate responses and reactions to selfies on social media lead people to crave more of others’ approval and this sort of validation strengthens our perceptions of our physical attractiveness. Social media also helps us to view selfies uploaded by others which may put us in a competitive position, trying to over-compare ourselves with others to be noticed, appreciated, and recognized. Such a process can lead to the feeling of immediate empowerment on behalf of the individual but this can become a never-ending habit of fishing for reassurance in the pressure to maintain a certain number of “likes” and comments on their selfies. But selfies on social media can also make us appreciate our sense of self and increase our self-esteem, encouraging a positive outlook and attitude. Fixation and an unhealthy obsession with social media are what will lead to the depreciation of our mental state regarding our self-image.

The most common people who fall a victim to this happen to be teenagers and young adults, who for the most part are millennials. A generation that is keen on exploring the technological revolution may not necessarily be tagged as self-centered in haste. In an attempt to be self-empowered, millennials explain their over-use of social media and selfies as a technique to portray themselves positively. The idea behind this may also be to shatter the illusions of an overly demanding society that is filled with expectations of idealistic body images and instead display their imperfections as a form of art through self-portraits. With their lives rooted in a digital world, it shouldn’t be surprising to witness millennials using the internet in different ways to manifest their thoughts and ideas, even if it is in the form of selfies. It may be understandable if millennials find common ground in such expression and are able to relate to one another or even understand and accept differences without friction. Millennials have always agreed upon the use of technology to be progressive and any form of communication to be ultimately productive.

This begs the final question – is an obsession with taking selfies classified as a mental disorder? The answer is – no. Despite the rumors in the past, “selfie addiction” is not a criterion listed in the DSM but it can be problematic if taking numerous selfies helps to feed pre-existing narcissistic tendencies in an individual and an obsession with clicking selfies can occur as a comorbidity to other mental disorders. There have been speculations regarding the future of selfie addictions being considered as a psychological disorder but as of today, it is fairly unlikely.

Shruti Venkatesh is the National Co-Lead (Mental Health) at One Future Collective.

References-

Charoensukmongkol, P. (2016). Exploring personal characteristics associated with selfie-liking.Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 10(2), article 7.

Diefenbach, S., & Christoforakos, L. (2017). The Selfie Paradox: Nobody Seems to Like Them Yet Everyone Has Reasons to Take Them. An Exploration of Psychological Functions of Selfies in Self-Presentation.Frontiers in Psychology,8, 7.

Hughes, L. (2018, April 04). For People With Social Anxiety, The Internet Is A Blessing And A Curse. Huffpost.

Jarrett, C. (2017, November 17). Millennials are narcissistic? The evidence is not so simple. Future.

Khanna, A., & Sharma, M. K. (2017). Selfie use: The implications for psychopathology expression of body dysmorphic disorder.Industrial Psychiatry Journal,26(1), 106–109.

Saroshe, Satish. (2016). Assessment of Selfie Syndrome among the Professional Students of a Cosmopolitan City of Central India: A Cross-sectional Study. International Journal of Preventive and Public Health Sciences (IJPPHS). 2. 1-4. 10.17354/ijpphs/2016/25.

Seiter, C. (2016, August 10). The Psychology of Social Media: Why We Like, Comment, and Share Online.Buffer Social.

Tatomirovic, T. (2018, March 30). Selfie: It is not a novelty in the human desire for (self-) expression. Thrive Global.

The Allure of the Selfie. (2014, October). Network Notebooks 08.

Whitbourne, S. (2016, August 27). Are Selfie-Takers Really Narcissists? Psychology Today.

 

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Ageing and the Workplace

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The evolving workspace makes way and creates space for a generation of older employees, who would not otherwise stick around.

Work provides social contact, personal growth, financial security, stability, a sense of identity and social status.  The workplace — consisting of the work environment and the group dynamics at work — plays an important role in the achievement of the benefits of work.  Not only has there been a change in the demographic distribution, there has also been a change in the work environment since the Industrial Revolution in the 20th century.  Work culture has evolved from a fixed and mechanical one to that of flexible working conditions. The idea of having fixed hours from 9-5 has shifted to accommodate flexible hours and remote working, based on the needs and availability of the employees. This also highlights a growing equality of rights between employees and managers.  [mkdf_blockquote text=” A casual work environment, an emphasis on teamwork and the increasing influence of technology has changed the way a company and its employees function.” title_tag=”h2″ width=””]

 

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Looking at the demographic trends of various countries, it is evident that although there is a lot of inflow of young employees, the workforce is also ageing.  Apart from developing countries like India, where mortality rates and birth rates are high – contributing to a younger workforce — several developed countries have an ageing workforce. Economic needs evolve, and with current rates of inflation and increasing demand of consumer goods, financial needs have taken precedent over retirement. [mkdf_blockquote text=”Several employees over the age of 55 are less confident about their retirement plans and several find pension and retirement savings insufficient to keep up with the growing economic demands. ” title_tag=”h2″ width=””]

There is also a skill-gap which is often resolved by retaining the older, more experienced employees. Another, rather simple reason why there seems to be an ageing of the workforce is because of the social benefits of work and the feeling of being generally productive. A study has shown that the availability of choice of whether or not to work past the “typical” retirement age- has shown to be a key to satisfaction among working older adults. Imagine the character of Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) as an intern to Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway) in the movie, The Intern.

Keeping the movie in mind, it is easy to see the need of the older generations to work and the responsibility of the current generation to reach out to them and accommodate them in the dynamic work environment. However, prejudices are rather common for humans and the ageing population is no less susceptible to being victim to a set of prejudices either.

‘Ageism’ is stereotyping and discriminating on the basis of a person’s age. At work, ageism may take the following roles:

  • Not hiring an older person;
  • Believing that an older employee would not be interested in learning new technology;
  • A preconceived notion that senior employees would be unable to perform or contribute due to physical maladies; or
  • Making fun of the older employees.

Ageism can negatively affect the employees by lowering their self-esteem and self-worth. While some may begin to internalise the stereotypes which could further limit their workplace satisfaction, others may try too hard to fit in, losing their identity and the unique values they bring to an organisation. Several countries have anti-discrimination laws to counter ageism and several companies even encourage the participation of the older employees at work. Ageism is not the only problem that the ageing crowd faces in the workplace. Some of the challenges they face in the changing workplace are:

  • Increasingly dynamic and involved role of technology often makes it difficult for the employees to keep up with work requirements.
  • Some employees may have a low morale when working for a younger management.
  • Unfixed work timings would also mean increasingly long working hours with comparatively low returns, may especially affect them since they’ve worked for fixed hours for several years.

In conclusion — the years of experience and insight that older employees possess helps the current young generation line of managers and founders. Thus several startups today may have a young founder and CEO but also have a board of senior mentors who may be retired but have several years of experience. In fact, the current workplace culture is rather beneficial for accommodating the senior employees and can be used in the following ways:

  • Technology and easy access to resources can provide opportunities for remote work;
  • Equality and declining grapevine requirements allow for modification of responsibilities according to their needs and abilities;
  • A casual work environment encourages the ageing employees to seek guidance in operating new systems and technologies from the younger employees;
  • Anti-discrimination laws in several countries protects against ageism related issues;
  • Increasingly inclusive values of several new companies encourage the ageing population to work beyond the typical retirement age.

Vini Doshi is a Research Associate (Mental Health) at One Future Collective.

References:

https://www.thebusinesswomanmedia.com/5-trends-changing-work-environment/

https://businesscasestudies.co.uk/lloyds-tsb/changing-working-patterns/the-changing-work-environment.html

http://www.asaging.org/blog/issues-impacts-and-implications-aging-workforce

https://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1090&context=intl

http://agingandwork.bc.edu/blog/

https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/usefulresources/workandmentalhealth/worker/isworkgoodforyou.aspx

http://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/article-details/the-hr-challenges-of-an-ageing-workforce

 

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Queer Infocus | July 2020

The Beginning, Middle and End: A Tryst with Depression