Eight years ago, the link aggregator Digg caused an uproar: content would be ordered based on user activity. Today, we take that for granted. In 2010, it spelled the end of Digg. A commenter with the handle blue_beetle lamented, “If you’re not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.” Simplistic, sure, but it got the point across: we had entered an age in which entire business models could rest on the idea of collecting your information—not something we should necessarily be comfortable with. Fast forward eight years, and the blue_beetle’s comment is as relevant as ever. We have come to accept data as the basis for every online transaction, a condition as obvious as it is easy to forget.
Last week the editor asked me to write a piece on how perpetrators are victims themselves. He believed I would be the right person to write that given that I am a survivor of sexual assault and do believe that the person who raped me was a victim of certain things at certain points in his life. Nonetheless, it’s one thing to explain to a friend how you re-humanized a person you hated so you could understand why you stayed in a terrible relationship and a whole other to write a piece that feels diminishing to all the pain I experienced. My friend the editor didn’t mean to be insensitive. He understands pain and hate but in a context very different to sexual assault and harassment.