I'm fairly open about most things in my life. I'm friends with a lot of people, or I'd like to think so. At the same time, though, I'm only close friends with a very few people. Facebook and Google know me like an acquaintance would know me: my interests (to some extent), my basic information, and some details about my day-to-day life. As I explored, I found some accurate information about myself – they know my birthday, my approximate age, exactly what I've written and done on Facebook for the past year. There were some inaccuracies, of course. For example, Google thinks I like shooter games for some reason, and I've never played a video game in my life. But for the most part they were spot on. I do enjoy dance, I read a lot of philosophy and I'm a great cook.
While I don't necessarily find it ok that I'm being data mined by these large corporations, I also believe that I (and most people) are much more complex than what music we listen to and what we post on our social media. True communication will always be face-to-face. Google may know what I'm buying my sister for Christmas before she does, but they'll never know the conversations I've had with her about middle-school and first boyfriends. Facebook may know that I “like” Passion Pit, but they'll never know I start every morning run with “Take A Walk” (though maybe now they do). Moreover, people change – and what is true of someone one day as they surf the web may not be true the next.
Media is becoming a huge and increasingly important part of our lives – for better or worse. I truly believe, however, that it's effect will be simply one of the many communications that shape who we are. At the end of the day, an algorithm cannot understand a person. More than that, it's impossible to completely categorize a person. Google and Facebook try to understand us for ad purposes, try to understand what we like and do so that we can be targeted. The truth is, though, that despite the categories we fit into, we are each unique enough that we can never be understood through a program.
Therefore, though I believe that media affects us and that we affect media in a constant interplay, I'm not hugely concerned about my privacy or what Google and Facebook “know” about me. In fact, as long as the interplay exists, they won't be able to understand me any better than people I talk to occasionally. This is not to downplay the importance of media in our lives, but to remember that even new media cannot undermine individuality, personality, or the significance of person-to-person interaction.