New Media Threatens Privacy

You decide to go to a party one night. You need to loosen up a little so you have a drink — completely harmless. You get a little more comfortable with your surroundings. You start with another. And another. You keep going until you can’t even remember how many you’ve had, but you remember that everyone kept telling you how friendly you were.
By the time you make it home, you don’t really remember the names of the people you met, much less what they looked like. Nonetheless, you’re convinced that you had the time of your life.
The following day, your head is throbbing from a hangover from the previous night. You open up your computer to check your Facebook page only to find your Newsfeed filled with the risqué pictures that mom and dad wouldn’t be so proud of. Because you don’t want those pictures publicized on the Internet, you decide to untag your name out of the picture, but ultimately, the person who posted the pictures is the only one who can directly delete it. Your pictures are stuck on the Internet for eternity whether you like it or not.
So what has the digital age come to when people can’t fully control information about themselves that is floating around on the Internet? Many people argue that the value of privacy has depreciated due to this society of open information. This lack of privacy has resulted in a normalized feature of the rising digital culture.
Facebook has become an example of a leading social network that consequently downplays privacy through its features. One of Facebook’s main features, infamously known as the “Newsfeed,” publishes various actions performed by a particular user. Essentially, the Newsfeed publicizes such things as the creation of a new photo album, status updates and who is going to upcoming events in the surrounding community. Privacy settings can be changed so that these actions are published exclusively to their friends, but many still opt to make this information public for everyone. Since its debut in September 2006, the Newsfeed has garnered both praise and criticism. It has been lauded because of its informative style, bringing people together by common interests or friends that spark new friendships or renew old ones. On the other hand, it has disappointed users due to its lack of privacy since people cannot control who posts certain pictures or other private information.
First-year biological sciences major Alegria Cantillep argues that narrow perceptions of who actually sees these posts prevent users from realizing how many people see what others post.
“We think it’s only our friends looking at them and don’t even consider that our bosses and others can look at them too,” Cantillep said.
This widespread idea that everyone and anyone is your friend has changed the limitations of privacy. Part of the reason why privacy is redefined is because there is an ambiguity of what “friends” really means, as its denotation varies from user to user. Some add friends for the sake of adding friends, whether it be close friends or barely-known acquaintances. Others might even go so far as to add people they do not know personally just so that they can appear popular or contest that they have more friends than others.
This dominating idea that Facebook is a welcoming and safe atmosphere bonded by the ties of friendship has left little leeway for the protection of privacy. Since the ambiance caters to socializing, privacy is not given a second thought. Users become so comfortable in this “friendly” environment that they do not think twice about what they decide to post. Some might believe that since friends are viewing what is posted, privacy is not a significant issue. There is a sense of trust between friends, and thus what is posted is not as carefully monitored.
In addition to the false assumption that Facebook is a haven for friendly users, convenience also comes at the cost of privacy. Instead of sending individual friends pictures from a particular event, the Newsfeed becomes convenient since those who want to view them and choose ones they would like to store in their computer can save time. The conditions as to who views them do not become a central issue to these users. Their main purposes for these postings are to share, which suggests a priority of property over privacy. These postings then become communal property, where users can get access to what they want at their own disposal.
Third-year anthropology major Josephine Cho states that users seek attention as a trade-off for giving up their privacy.
“Sometimes people want to feel like others care about what they’re doing,” Cho said, “which is why they’re posting certain things in the first place.”
Privacy becomes such a non-issue because people seek self-gratification through the available information posted on the Newfeeds. These users build up their confidence through how others see them, and so they use these Newsfeeds as a tool in showcasing their viewers to selective parts of their lives that possibly make them seem more interesting than they really are. These types of users manipulate their lack of privacy to their advantage, where they create a certain persona of themselves and expose this persona to the masses. Whether or not this persona accurately represents the user depends on what he or she chooses to disclose.
The digital age has without a doubt opened up the development of the ever-changing youth culture. Although recent Internet conventions have changed throughout the years, the argument stands that the significance of privacy varies with each individual user. Whatever the case, social sites have become a social revolution that shows no signs of dying down anytime soon.