Surveillance in Everyday Life

Surveillance, the idea of it seems scary but the reality is that it has been pretty normalised in today’s society. Whether it be by CCTV in our homes, workplaces, the streets or even while we are casually surfing the web the truth is we are constantly being watched. What I find  interesting is how we associate the term ‘stalker’ so casually with social media. I’m sure every single one of us has sat and ‘stalked’ someone on Facebook or another social media site, whatever the reasoning behind it might be.

                                                                Social Media by Magicatwork CC BY 2.0

Whenever I talk to my friends from back home the question ‘so what have you been up to lately’ seems redundant because we already know, whether it be on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat we are constantly documenting our lives for others to see. When we in turn spend time going through, commenting and liking each others actions on various social media platforms, we begin in a kind of a way, surveilling each other.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but maybe it gives a little insight into why we have become more or less indifferent to the excessive amount of surveillance that is conducted on us today- particularly on social media.

Since starting a unit on surveillance as part of my media and communications degree at university, I have been thinking a lot more about this issue. Naturally I began starting to discuss some of these issues with my friends and family.

The tweet above pretty much summarises a chat I recently had with my mum about webcam hacking, although initially her response was one of absolute outrage,what I found was that even though she was unnerved by the idea that someone could be watching her through her webcam or tracking her internet search history, it was never going to make her abandon the internet completely.

Like the example above, every other conversation I have had with my circle of friends and family have gone the same. Yes, they were a bit uneasy when confronted with the idea that they are being tracked continuously online. At the same time however, their end response, most often was one of acceptance. the phrase ‘well I guess that’s the world we live in’ was one I heard too many times.

                                                       Privacy by Owen Moore CC BY 2.0

That is the truth isn’t it? Privacy has become a privilege more than a right in today’s society, and as a result of this, surveillance has become a part of our everyday lives. We watch each other on social media, and we sometimes even keep track of ourselves through things like fitness and nutrition apps.


When you sit and think about how much surveillance we conduct on ourselves and our friends and family members, you begin to understand why companies are able to get away with all the tracking they do. The truth is, “most social media users are less concerned with governments or corporations watching their online activities” (Marwick, 2012). We are too busy networking and being entertained online to stop and think that there maybe someone tracking our activity.

Of course, I’m also not saying that we should sit back and let big companies and Governments invade our privacy- ignorance is never a good thing. The thing is, even in the midst of all the surveillance that is going on, there are also people and organisations that are bringing these issues to light. As the tweet embedded above shows, people are being told about the changing privacy policies of the apps they use.  This is an amazing thing, because at the very least people are being made aware of what is going on and as a result might be a little bit more savvy about how they conduct themselves online and in their day-to-day lives.

At the end of the day, there is no escape. Even if you decide that you want no part of it and delete yourself completely from the internet to go and live under a rock in some remote area- who’s to say a drone flying up in the sky won’t catch some footage of you while you’re sleeping?





Marwick, A. E, 2012, The public domain: Social surveillance in everyday life.Surveillance & Society, 9(4), 378-393. Retrieved from






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