Panopticism in modern society

Panopticism is described as a system in which the belief that we are being watched forces us to behave properly. This is a concept created by French philosopher, Michel Foucault based on the panopticon, created by English philosopher Jeremy Bentham to demonstrate how the concept of surveillance can alter the behavior of human beings. In his novel “Discipline and Punish”, Foucault focuses on the idea that those in power can create ideal and obedient citizens by making us conscious enough of the constant surveillance in everyday life, to make us behave desirably. These structures are made to train us and discipline us on how to respond in the face of authority, whether it be a job or at school. One way panopticism has been embedded into modern society is through the use of digital surveillance in both schools and public areas. How many times have we stopped at red lights though there was nobody around but there’s a possibility that a camera may or may not capture us breaking the law? Suddenly we grow conscious, decide to stop, and wait for the green light in fear of the consequences that may follow our decisions. Even while shopping in stores, we may feel as though someone is always watching us so we “act accordingly” just in case. All these structures are set up to create prisons within our minds and force us to monitor ourselves. Another example would be how companies monitor their users on social media and store their information which can then be sold off. The users tend to be careful about how they express their ideas or act in the media, in fear of being punished for engaging in illegal activities or doing anything that may be frowned upon by society. Panopticism has created a distrustful society that is always looking over their shoulders as there’s no way to tell when someone is watching us. 

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