With the popularization of social media, the 21st century has redefined the ways that people interact and share with one another. Today’s teenagers are notorious for posting everything online, from embarrassing pictures to political opinions. Parents consistently accuse teens of “oversharing” and often believe they are entitled to monitoring their kid’s online activities. They impose that their children have no regard for privacy because they share every bit of their lives online. Teenagers, however, argue differently. In her book, It’s Complicated, Danah Boyd offers various teenagers perspectives on privacy in a public setting:
“In a mediated world, assumptions and norms about the visibility and spread of expressions must be questioned. Many of the most popular genres of social media are designed to encourage participants to spread information. On a site like Facebook, it is far easier to share with all friends than to manipulate the privacy settings to limit the visibility of a particular piece of content to a narrower audience. As a result, many participants make a different calculation than the one they would make in an unmediated situation. Rather than asking themselves if the information to be shared is significant enough to be broadly publicized, they question whether it is intimate enough to require special protection. In other words, when participating in net- worked publics, many participants embrace a widespread public-by- default, private-through-effort mentality.” (Boyd 62)
Parents mistake posting on social media with a disregard for privacy. Traditionally, the notion of privacy pertains to keeping personal information out of the public eye. As our culture has shifted to interacting on online public domains, however, this conventional understanding is no longer relevant. We [including myself in the teenage population] share things online to socialize with friends; to gather information on peers we know little about; to attract potential roommates and significant others. Interactions that traditionally occurred in person, where there is little chance of documentation, now take place on the internet where they are more accessible for viewing. But simply because the domain of communication has changed does not nullify the desire for privacy. With regards to monitoring the flow of information that people want to be available online, perhaps a better word than “privacy” is “control”. It is not that we don’t want people to know information about us or what is going on in our lives; rather, we want to retain power over our narrative that exists online. Posting content and commenting on what other people share typically creates a link to your personal profile. Every move we make online is a conscious decision. By selectively participating on social media sites, I believe we have control over our digital personalities that are accessible for viewing.