Cryptography

The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

The Need for Privacy Creates a Facade

In It's Complicated, author danah boyd says, "Issues emerge when teens start to deceive in order to keep the truth private.  But by and large, when teens share to create a sense of privacy, they are simply asserting agency in a social context in which their power is regularly undermined.  The most common way that this unfolds is when teens systematically exclude certain information from what is otherwise a rich story" (75).  Boyd explains that to maintain a certain level of privacy, some teens feel the need to share snippets of their lives on social media, in order to evade questions from their friends.  However, this pressure to share often leads teens hide other, darker parts of their lives.

boyd uses the example of lesbian, gay, or transgender teens who create online profiles that make them appear straight or abused teens who share "extravagant stories" to hide the truth of what is really going on at home.  I was deeply affected by this passage because of an event that occurred last January.  A female distance runner, a girl I had known from high school, committed suicide.  She had been attending the University of Pennsylvania and was a member of the cross country and track teams.  After her death, discussion surrounding her use of social media to hide her pain spread.  Her Instagram account featured photos of her with teammates, smiling and having fun.  Her final post, which was posted just an hour before her death, was a picture of christmas lights in a park.  These photos created an image of a happy college-girl.  Based on her social media posts, one would never be aware of the struggles that she was facing.

The culture surrounding social media in modern day society is one of controversy.  Adults argue that teens are sharing too much, while teens, on the contrary, limit what they post with the hopes of maintaining privacy.  The desire to have privacy leads teens to create a false online persona, skewing the image of their reality.  Sharing the best aspects of one's life has become a social norm.  The pressure to share simultaneously generates the pressure to hide.

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1 Comment

  1. Derek

    I found your post moving. Thanks for sharing this story. We didn't have time in class today to explore this aspect of social media, but it's an important one. The social norms that we encounter in various communities online aren't always healthy ones. I know I usually share only the best parts of my life with my Facebook friends. Sharing struggles, disappointments, hardships--that's often taboo.

    A recent episode of the podcast Reply All featured a woman who tried to break these taboos by posting photos to Instagram that reflected her clinical depression. It's worth a listen.

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