Gen Ys face cri­sis of cy­ber iden­tity

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Prime Space - BERNARD SALT DE­MOG­RA­PHER

THE year is 2047 and the Aus­tralian prime min­is­ter is be­ing sub­jected to ridicule ev­ery day in the me­dia. She and her fam­ily are be­ing em­bar­rassed by the slow re­lease into the pub­lic do­main of a se­ries in­dis­creet pho­to­graphs and text that are now 40 years old.

Each night she ap­pears on television to plead yet again for her right to pri­vacy and for pub­lic re­straint and un­der­stand­ing.

But it is all to no avail. The story is too good.

Tabloid edi­tors and shock jocks en­cir­cle their prey: ‘‘ The pub­lic has a right to know’’; ‘‘ It shows a side of the PM that is ei­ther gen­uinely no longer rel­e­vant or that is de­lib­er­ately hid­den from the elec­torate.’’

The Op­po­si­tion leader does a wor­ry­ingly con­vinc­ing job of feign­ing con­cern for the PM’s pri­vacy and well- be­ing.

Strate­gi­cally, he only com­mented on the mat­ter once a full au­dit had been com­pleted of his shadow min­istry for what has be­come known as ‘‘ dated cy­ber con­tent’’ ( or DCC to the technophiles). The facts are th­ese. When the prime min­is­ter was 14 in 2007 she, like most of her Gen­er­a­tion Y friends, set up a profile on what was then known as Face­book.

As we know, the PM is a strong wo­man now in her mid 50s, but back then she was a re­bel­lious teenager.

Even­tu­ally her re­bel­lious­ness would morph into stri­dent po­lit­i­cal views and as a con­se­quence she was able to nat­u­rally thrust th­ese views and her­self into the pub­lic spot­light.

But none of this could be fore­seen when she was teenager.

In many re­spects, the pho­tos are harm­less. Here was a week­end of drink­ing, skinny- dip­ping and rab­ble rous­ing by wil­ful teenagers.

The young PM doc­u­mented the gath­er­ing’s high­lights and promptly up­loaded the best pic­tures on to her site.

‘‘ Here’s a pic­ture of me and Johnno pash­ing,’’ are seven typed words the PM would come to deeply re­gret.

It sparked an in­ter­na­tional man­hunt for the mys­te­ri­ous ‘‘ Johnno’’, who is no­tably not the prime min­is­ter’s cur­rent or for­mer hus­band.

What hap­pened is that ac­cess to the site was open to all her friends at that time.

A friend of a friend down­loaded all images, stored them on a me­mory stick and promptly for­got about the ‘‘ to­tally out- there week­end’’, and the in­crim­i­nat­ing USB, for four decades. The PM’s Face­book profile was even­tu­ally su­per­seded by newer tech­nol­ogy.

The young PM also moved on from that group of friends and later ex­pressed no real in­ter­est in doc­u­ment­ing and shar­ing the in­ti­ma­cies of her teenage love life with all and sundry.

About a month af­ter the story broke, ‘‘ Johnno’’ was tracked down; he im­me­di­ately rev­elled in his sud­den no­to­ri­ety.

Over the years, he had watched the PM’s rise to promi­nence and was a lit­tle peeved at how her life had turned out com­pared with his.

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