Are the New RHS Accounts a Violation of Privacy? How Can We Ensure a Safe Space?

Recently, one of the most popular trends on Instagram is for students across the country to create anonymous accounts that take snapshots of life at school, and Ridgewood is no exception. There have been multiple accounts popping up for photographers and other students who are just looking for a laugh. But are the people in these photos unwitting victims to the mockery of their fellow classmates, or have they enjoyed being able to have a laugh even at themselves?  A junior stated that “while some of them are fun and mildly amusing, others that include taking actual pictures of people with their faces are kind of invasive.”  Another junior agrees. “I think some accounts are a violation of privacy, more so the sleeping ones as opposed to the bathroom shoes since you don’t know who the person wearing the shoe is.”  Some accounts like @rhsconfessing and @bathroomfeetatrhs inherently oblige to privacy, as faces and account names are never shown. But some are more dangerous, such as @rhs_sleeping_students, where consent to photos is impossible and photographers may submit to the accounts without the subject ever knowing.  Accounts like @rhsbadparking2021 and @rhs.badposture toe the line as to whether their subjects’ privacy is violated or not. @rhsbadparking often scrubs out the license plates to cars, but the poor parking job is still in full view, with many peoples’ cars being recognizable by their friends or classmates. @rhs.badposture often doesn’t crop out the faces of those pictured, leaving no sense of privacy for the students in the photos. But @rhs_sleeping_students, though one of the most humorous, is also the account that does the least to protect the privacy of RHS students. Faces that are not covered by arms and masks are openly shared across the internet. And since they are sleeping, it can be assumed that in most cases no consent to photography is ever given.  These photos, as of now, do not count as cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is the willful, repeated attempt to harm someone else over the internet, and most of these photos do not have repeat subjects, nor are the accounts explicitly malicious in their intent.  These candid photos are not just a collection put together in a school yearbook, they are a permanent mark on social media. So what can we do in order to produce candid photos that are both humorous and relatable, while also carefully avoiding crossing the line into cyberbullying? The easiest solution would be to block out all the faces and features that reveal peoples’ identity on social media. But that would crush the true spirit of these accounts, whose humor derives from the fact that the people in these photos are our friends and classmates. Instead, it would be best to obtain permission before photographing and submitting images of your friends. Even though these accounts are not officially affiliated with our school, it is important to keep in mind that they are still a representation of what goes on in the RHS halls. No matter what, we must make sure that we promote a safe environment in which we can balance both good-natured humor and privacy within our school.  Marie Kim Staff Writer Graphic: Youngho Cho

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