Seven years ago today, Douglas Haddow published an article for Adbusters describing an emerging counterculture that everyone had started referring to as "hipsters." It was evidently a cynical writeup that (whether he was aware of it or not) showcased a sort of changing of the guard when it came to having a counterculture sensibility:
Hipsterdom is the first "counterculture" to be born under the advertising industry’s microscope, leaving it open to constant manipulation but also forcing its participants to continually shift their interests and affiliations. Less a subculture, the hipster is a consumer group – using their capital to purchase empty authenticity and rebellion.
Haddow went to great lengths to emphasize just how shallow and toxic hipsterdom really is while providing little respite in return. Hipsters are people whose notions of counterculture are stuck within a postmodern paradigm; they are all subcultures combined while simultaneously having no real substance. Yes, the age of the decade-defining subculture is dead because everything has succumbed to hipsterdom; nothing can come from it in the same vein as those it so desperately tries to emulate by assimilation. From the hipsters of the post-war era to the hipsters of the information age; postmodern counterculture has finally come full circle and it's all thanks to our increased connectedness with the rest of the world.
... Most critics make a point of attacking the hipster’s lack of individuality, but it is this stubborn obfuscation that distinguishes them from their predecessors, while allowing hipsterdom to easily blend in and mutate other social movements, subcultures and lifestyles.
For nearly a decade, internet users have been handing over archives of their life experiences in exchange for minor conveniences under what is most commonly referred to as social media. At the time Haddow presumably chose to write his think-piece on hipsters, Myspace was still considered the most popular social media website on the 'net; hell, the term "social media" hadn't even reached mainstream perforation yet. Since then we've seen a plethora of websites and services come and go in terms of pop culture relevance and even though hipsterdom has managed to permeate within the mainstream's consciousness for quite some time now, not much has changed; Haddow was right. According to a research paper published by neuroscientist Jonathan Touboul, information spreads too quickly in order for any cohesive counterculture to form. This is why all of today's anticonformists seemingly look the same; mainstream culture is evolving at a faster rate than which they can react. Touboul named this occurrence, "the Hipster Effect."
Despite how disruptive the Snowden Leaks were back in 2013, many people still aren't fully aware of the extent over how little control they really have over the spread of their personally identifiable information. Consumers dislike this phenomenon but feel powerless to stop it. In the United States, all expectations of privacy with information not locally stored on a given users' device are rendered moot. This is what allowed the creation of the Surveillance-Industrial Complex in the first place; Bruce Schneier has talked about the problems with it before. The biggest issue with the Snowden Leaks weren't the phone wiretaps or other constitutionally questionable operations with which the NSA et al were partaking in, no; it was at how easily us consumers played into their hands with the advent of social media. Privacy, the right to selectively reveal one's self to the world, had been suffocating on a miasma of dick pics and puckered lips. The Snowden Leaks removed any reason to doubt wherever Five Eyes diverted its gaze and yet, very little can be done about it without further treating corporations like people. This is because most of the wrongdoings committed by these government agencies consisted of collaborating with third parties both in the spotlight and behind the curtain. As Edward Snowden himself once said,
Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.
But privacy is dead, remember? Either we ushered in a golden era of encrypted communications by toppling the very foundations of Silicon Valley, or we simply let all of this slide. A betting man would wager that people subscribe to the latter because the conclusion has long since been made that traditional means of information security do more to impede social capital rather than reinforce it. Convenience is king in the information age and despite my own personal aversion to Big Data, the least I can do is recognize this as fact. With that convenience, aesthetics have lost their anticonformist value almost entirely and the hipster's insistence to march forward into the fray is very telling about the current state of counterculture. Despite our level of connectedness, there might still be some levels of subculture that exist - but it would be a Theseus' Ship type effect as values and aesthetics change over time. One may conclude what I'm describing is actually hipsterdom on its own right and I'd say that's only partially correct; what I'm describing would consist of people who're not entirely set on ironic mass consumption, but rather the opposite of such.
WIRED published an op-ed written by Nathan Jergensen where he described why privacy is actually thriving online; he went on to state that some people have begun posting photos to social media in such a way that makes their intentions appear ambiguous. The context of the picture is discarded in favor of no apparent context at all. Extrapolating from that, maybe the hipster's need to view the latest trends with such disdain is an action that instils a similar ephemeral sensibility. There's a level of sincerity and (albeit temporary) authenticity to found in what isn't persistent and/or has no apparent meaning. This is what makes it harder for advertisers (and subsequently governments alike) to gain a foothold on the contents of people's lives; it's almost like a form of operations security being applied on a massive scale.
That alone is just "security through obscurity" taken to a whole 'nother level. I mean, Big Data corporations have been found to archive thoughts that you either decided not to publish or were never meant to be public in the first place and they certainly intend to make it easier for themselves to do more of just that. Even today, appearing happy on social media can be used against you in the court of law. What's going to happen when corporations and governments have the ability to quantify our very thought processes? When the world is one giant panopticon, scenarios that are most commonly solved with methods derived from compsec ideals diminish over time; opsec provides a wonderful temporary solution to our virtual imprisonment but without infosec it quickly loses its effectiveness. As we latch on to what little privacy we have today, the dichotomy once solemnly shared between opsec and infosec is quickly becoming blurred. We need some form of cognitive security; a field of study that further merges these two opposing means into something with which would prove useful in our brave new world.