In It’s Complicated, boyd wrote: “there’s a big difference between being in public and being public… mere participation in social media can blur these two dynamics.”
I especially like the author’s analogy between a subway conversation and a social media post online. While both contents are in public, neither is being public. A subway conversation, while audible to those around, is meant to be private. Likewise, while a social media post is visible to all, it’s meant to be private as well, or at least exclusively shared between only a few. While teenagers seem to understand and practice the concept almost unintentionally, adults struggle to grasp the ideology behind their actions.
Once social media emerged, it has become unstoppable. Teenagers, a generation facing the rise of such communication, face particular challenges in terms of personal privacy and social interactions. Humans share the need to be in public, be a part of a social group or a community. It’s hard to maintain offline when interactions are occurring online. And the mere concept of social media – the ideology of a more open and interactive space – is blurring the line between what’s accessible and what’s private.
In traditional senses, inaccessibility equals privacy. If a diary is locked, parents would know its content is intended to be kept private. However, the same kind of physical lock has disappeared in the age of social media. Teenagers are relying on social conventions to lock their online presence, while parents are failing to follow such invisible rules.
The public-by-default mindset of social media makes it harder for teenagers to navigate their privacy. Because the social environment is so different online, it’s easy to think that it has completely different rules when it comes to maintaining privacy. For instance, while almost no one would choose to broadcast a conversation in public, many would post such conversations online. Personally, I believe it might be due in part to the illusion-like nature of social media. While we know the content we post online are visible to virtually everyone, it doesn’t feel like we have a full house of audience. The concept of everyone is different in social media from its traditional meaning.
The expression of privacy has changed; yet its core meaning and challenges haven’t changed.