A couple of days ago, a video of Malia Obama blowing smoke rings went viral. The internet flipped out. Everyone either sang her praises or was deeply offended. “Go, Malia! I’m glad you’re having fun in college and doing your own thing! Get it, girl!” Or, “How dare she! What a delinquent. As a daughter of a former president, she should not be behaving in this manner.” There was a third response, which was something along the lines of, “Who cares?” This whole incident brought to mind something I find very important. It is also something frequently underemphasized, particularly in this day and age. This, dear reader, is the art of minding your own business.
With society’s obsession with social media, very little of our lives are completely private. Everyone knows who we hang out with, what we’re studying, what we do for fun and often, where we are. Obviously, to an extent, we choose who we share these things with. We don’t share our phone’s location with everyone we’ve ever met. We don’t post play-by-play updates of our entire lives on Facebook. We don’t check in everywhere we go. Some people do, but over time, I think most users have found a happy medium between being completely incognito and telling everyone exactly what they’re doing whenever they do anything at all.
Social media is wonderful for a lot of reasons. I have family members raising children states or even oceans away from me, and it’s great to be able to watch them grow up. I have friends who have moved across the country to go to college or start their careers, and I love seeing their photos and updates. On the other hand, social media can be toxic. It feeds into a culture of comparison in which many people are stuck in a cycle of looking at themselves as they relate to others. It can cause people to feel inferior and can be particularly dangerous for users in the younger generations who may not have a firm grasp on who they are or who they want to be. Social media and the internet has slowly (or not so slowly) chipped away at privacy.
This is not as big of a deal for us “normal people” as our followers likely mainly consist of people we actually know. However, for people who are famous for one reason or another, they have a lot to worry about in this department. Paparazzi are no longer the only concern. Anyone can take a photo or video and post it anywhere, with or without their knowledge. If you’re a rapper, having a video online of you blowing O’s is really not a big deal. However, if your dad used to be the president of the U.S., it may be a more notable point of discussion. Why? I can understand people getting frustrated if evidence came out the current president supports people accused of sexual assault (just a hypothetical, obviously), but why does it matter if a college girl blew smoke rings? Why does what anyone does actually matter if they’re not hurting anyone, threatening to hurt anyone or supporting hurting anyone? Quite frankly, what a college girl does with her free time is no one’s business but her own. Minding your own business is, as I mentioned earlier, an art. It can be hard to do sometimes. I know Malia Obama’s behavior is truly fascinating and not at all like the behavior of every young woman of her age but try not to worry about it. We all have plenty of things to worry about concerning just ourselves. Let’s try to focus on that and let Malia worry about herself.
Taylor Cavaliere is a UF journalism and psychology junior. Her column appears on Mondays.