The Rise of Social Networks Might be Making People More Private

// Posted by on 04/13/2014 (8:31 PM)

We all know that in recent years the use of social media has exploded into a worldwide phenomenon. Seemingly everyone uses all of these various networks and apps to connect with other people. So much of our private lives have become public, and often is viewable to people we don’t even know that well. We can see thousands of personal photos of each other, our customized pages show all of our “likes” and interests, and we can even connect over a map that shows us the exact locations of our “friends” at any given time. Therefore, it would appear that privacy is dead.

Our generation is said to value personal privacy less than any group of people before us. In a Wired  article called “Why Privacy is Actually Thriving Online” Nathan Jurgenson talks about the explosion of personal information online and how our use of social media has changed our outlook on what is private and what is not. He suggests that kids of our generation post now with the intention of revealing something about themselves, but also with the intention of concealing things to leave a certain sense of mystery in our posts. Jurgenson also claims that Facebook has recognized a strange pattern among some teens:

“In a behavior called whitewalling, users post to Facebook—sometimes in great detail — but then quickly delete everything, creating a blank timeline. That’s a new form of privacy for the social media age: a mass release of information that eventually disappears.” (Jurgenson, 2014)

I agree that young people today are becoming increasingly wary of who might see what they release through social media, but I think that those who are majorly concerned with their privacy tend to hold back on their posts rather than, as the author suggests, adjust them to be more cryptic or delete them shortly after posting. Our generation is simultaneously public and private, but ultimately the influx of social media outlets throughout the past decade might have turned millions of us away from sharing. Furthermore, I think the pressure to participate in social media has even caused some people to be more public than they feel comfortable being in actuality- or for some people it’s the opposite.

I’m curious to see what happens in the future with social media. New networks could take off unexpectedly like they have in the past, or people could abandon this culture of publicity and sharing altogether. Sometimes I think that the moments I don’t document are more precious, and that participating in the excessive use of technology/social media is distracting me from the present. If you don’t document something you’ll never totally be able to relive it- but that’s kind of the point. ”It’s gotten to the point where choosing not to photograph something conveys respect for a moment, imbues it with significance. Pretty soon we might realize that one of the Internet’s favorite slogans can now be reversed: No pics or it didn’t happen,” says Jergenson.

Rushkoff’s book Present Shock talks all about how consumed we are with technology and these networks. His opinion on our generation is clear: we are in a state of shock and we better do something before it’s too late. The Wired article, on the other hand, suggests that our generation is indeed stepping back from certain social media outlets and technologies. A second Wired article by Mat Honan is mostly about messaging networks, but touches on Facebook and other social networks and their privacy flaws in the eyes of users. Honan says that Facebook has developed a “self-admitted” problem with young people: they are leaving.

“The generation that has grown up with social media is also wary of its permanence—that picture you post today may come back to haunt you when you’re ready to find a job. Even the site’s central design, a timeline that literally begins with your birth, emphasizes the notion that Facebook is forever.”

I think this idea is central to the argument that our generation might flee from social media. Its permanence has made millions of us resistant to it or less active on it. When posting on Facebook in particular, it is inconvenient to adjust your audience, and you might question who will see your post, how they might receive it, and if they will think it’s directed at them (which it may not be). Honon suggests that in the past few years, messaging networks have taken priority or proved more useful for some people than social media outlets have. This is because they are less public, more intimate, and can be used more easily on a tablet or smartphone.

Do you think the efforts of social media companies will backfire, causing members of our generation to become more private- maybe even abandoning the networks altogether? Or will we just be slightly more selective about what we post? Will messaging networks take over, and how do you think that might impact our use of technology?



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Cassaundra said...

I too saw this article in Wired and thought it to be basically on point. I think there was a time when sites such as Facebook were starting to emerge where people engaged in over-sharing their lives on social media sites because it was new and exciting. For example, Twitter was criticized when it first came into existence with people making comments like “why would people think they’re so interesting that we need to know what they’re doing every minute” and “what do people post about? When they’re going to the bathroom?” However, Twitter has become extremely popular and is used for many reasons outside of pointless updates. Many businesses use Twitter to announce new products, and it is becoming a huge source of news with both major newspapers and tabloids posting their headline stories daily. I do not necessarily see the trend of posting a large amount of information and then deleting it which the article notes to be the case. Some people might upload a photo and take it down later either by request or because they don’t feel like it has gotten a sufficient number of likes, but I never see people upload massive amounts of information and then take it down. That being said, I totally agree with the final quote you cite about our generation becoming more wary of the permanence of social media and acting accordingly. We are told in high school that our profiles might affect our college acceptances, and when we are in college we are taught to keep our profiles “clean” in case a potential future employer looks at it. For these reasons, I believe my generation has become smarter and more selective about what we post online. Some people choose to restrict their photos from being viewed by anyone through privacy settings, or going through their profile to delete anything questionable. I also think this is part of the maturing process as from what I’ve seen, upperclassmen are more appropriate with their postings overall than underclassmen. This is an interesting thought as it suggests that being savvy with social media is part of maturing, which further speaks to the culture we have constructed around technology. I think people will definitely continue to post to sites like Facebook, but being aware of the permanence of the internet will gradually cause the postings to be more filtered. I do not subscribe to the “if there are no photos it didn’t happen” mentality, but I still take at least one picture at most events I attend. The difference is that I do not upload a large amount of pictures detailing every (somewhat pointless) aspect of the event. Rather, I would post one or two photos that encapsulated the time that was had, and save any other silly pictures for my own private viewing (and entertainment).

// 04/14/2014 at 5:21 pm

Kevin said...

I think the answer is definitely yes. We may share more on Facebook, but this also leaves us much more closed of to face-to-face human interactions. For example, “We meet fewer people. We gather less. And when we gather, our bonds are less meaningful and less easy. The decrease in confidants—that is, in quality social connections—has been dramatic over the past 25 years.” Is this largely because of social media? This article by the Atlantic claims that social media is making us increasingly lonely for these very reasons. Here is the link:

Basically, Facebook leads to less meaningful relationships, which makes us more lonely. In many cases, you could be far less lonely having three very meaningful relationships as opposed to 600 friends on Facebook. It is all really just surface interaction, which does not satisfy our need for true human relations. Facebook has the tendency to result in “non-personalized use of Facebook—scanning your friends’ status updates and updating the world on your own activities via your wall, or what Burke calls “passive consumption” and “broadcasting”—correlates to feelings of disconnectedness.” In my opinion, this makes perfect sense. Obviously you are going to feel disconnected when you are constantly just shuffling through people’s lives, never truly understanding anything about them.

I believe its possible that we will become more disconnected the more Facebook gets integrated into our lives. As we become less and less separated from our technology, then we will become more and more involved with this “broadcasting” discussed in the article. Also, we have read in class that this constant shuffling through our social media feeds makes us less involved with the present because we are always looking at the past and thinking about the future. Thus, we run the risk of becoming less involved with the people right in front of us, and more involved with these surface connections on Facebook. I believe this may result in being disconnected and increasingly lonely in a way that will not benefit society in the future.

// 04/15/2014 at 6:06 pm