Cryptography

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Technological Revolution of Teenage Privacy

“Every teenager wants privacy. Every single last one of them, whether they tell you or not, wants privacy.” – Waffle

I strongly agree with this statement for a multitude of reasons. One of the main reasons I agree with it is because I used to be like Waffle; Playing video games behind another personality and rarely interacting with the outside world. Also I am a very open person when it comes to my business but not when it comes to my memories or my personality. I strongly believe other people are like this as well. Though teenagers dress boldly and express themselves online while exposing themselves to the outside world there is still a lot or SOMETHING that they are unwilling to share with the world. The text mentions a quote talking about shame and how teenagers now a days have no shame. I disagree with this, I think that shame for teenagers not only is different from adults definition but it has also changed over time due to technology and social changes. With the ability for the world to know what you look like, added to the social tendencies of teenagers, it is logical to assume that teenagers will post scandalous things on social media. This includes pictures, drama, trends and more. From my perspective and from the people that I have asked around me, teenagers are sensitive when it comes to talking about their feelings or their “odd” opinion on something. Many teenagers want their feeling to remain hidden, even if they dress provocatively and have their drama on social media. This can be called the Technological Revolution of Teenage Privacy.

The Spectrum of Privacy

“Privacy is not a static construct. It is not an inherent property of any particular information or setting. It is a process by which people seek to have control over a social situation by managing impressions, information ows, and context.”

In other words, privacy is what you make it. There is not a definite definition and it is varies from person to person. I think that everyone perceives privacy differently and that in someways it is a spectrum. While some adults struggle to understand how teens can demand privacy while maintaining a social media presence, it is completely feasible and possible for teens to do so. Privacy isn’t synonymous with being off the grid and anti-social and it shouldn’t be. I think, especially in the 21st century, there is an expectation that everyone has a social media presence and there still exists the expectation to keep somethings private. It all depends on what each person is comfortable with. Some teens are comfortable with sharing every aspect of their life on a public account while others control their social situations by maintaining a private account that only a select few can see. It all depends on the range in which someone is comfortable with sharing personal information about their lives. For instance, it lately has become a trend that many teens will have “rinstas” or real Instagram accounts where they may share less personal, general posts and “finstas” or fake accounts which usually are private and only followed by close friends. Finstas give teens the opportunity to be more open about their lives and many people use it has a place to post rants and more personal information, all while controlling more specifically who can see what they post.

I personally think that there is this connotation that if you have a social media presence, you must be comfortable sharing anything. That is not the case, I think when posting something online most teens put it through their own personal filter, their own definition of privacy. This filter questions whether something upholds the image they want to maintain and does it give followers a look into their life without revealing too much. This is the modern way that teens interpret privacy and seek more control over the social situations and expectations.

New Type of Privacy

“I just think that [technology is] redefining what’s acceptable for people to put out about themselves. I’ve grown up with technology so I don’t know how it was before this boom of social networking. But it just seems like instead of spending all of our time talking to other individual people and sharing things that would seem private we just spend all of our time putting it in one module of communication where people can go and access it if they want to. It’s just more convenient.” This was said by Alicia in Boyd’s study. She believes that just because we post stuff on social media does not mean teens dislike privacy. Instead of having to talk for hours on end about our lives we post what we want online and can reminisce about it later. It is also said that adults find social media to be an oxymoron to teens wanting privacy but I believe that it is not. What is posted on instagram or facebook is chosen by the person. They decide what parts of their lives they want private. The idea of privacy changes with every generation. Today, we believe that privacy is choosing what we don’t want to share. I agree with this idea. Just because I want to post a picture of me and my friends having fun on the lake or at dinner does not mean I want to share my entire life with the world. Instead I am saying that those are moments that I am ok with people knowing about. They do not know what was said during those moments or anything that occurred before or after. Just small snippets of my life that give nothing close to the big story.

What Do I Have to Hide?

By focusing on what to keep private rather than what to publicize, teens often inadvertently play into another common rhetorical crutch – the notion that privacy is only necessary for those who have something to hide (boyd, 63).

When social media first began to crop up in my household, my parents weren’t sure how to react. With crude interfaces such as Myspace, my parents banned their use completely (thought this was a much more relevant issue to my older sister than it was for me). However with the upswing of social media sights such as Facebook and LinkedIn, sights my parents could use and were therefore inherently more comfortable with, our family had to have our first conversations about internet safety.

As a kid my parents were very aware of not only everything I posted but also everything my friends were posting. I distinctly remember one post my friend made about being home alone that had my mother rushing to phone her parents. While I was little, this level of online privacy made sense to me. My parents were obviously worried about my safety, and I was not yet rebellious enough to want to defy them just for the sake of being defiant. As I aged, however, my opinions began to deviate from my parents.

There came a point in my online life when I began to believe that my security didn’t matter too much: nothing I did was really all that interesting anyways, if someone wanted to read the FanFiction in my internet history they could be my guest. As Facebook privacy updated, I didn’t keep up with my account privacy settings, and my wall became increasingly public. I definitely adhered to the ideology that boyd was describing. For the most part, my views have changed again, but to an extent, I still do agree with it.

As I have become more aware of the information that is being sent out online, or rather the information behind the information (such as location services we don’t even realize we are posting), I have become increasingly more cautious about what I post and how I post it. Even if I have nothing illegal or secretive to hide, I would still like to keep the location of my house private to the internet. However, instead of changing my online visibility, I simply edited what I post in the first place. I still don’t have very strong Facebook security settings, but I make sure that the posts themselves are not revealing any threatening information. The only things I have to hide are those things which affect my safety.

Sharing Is Caring – Or Is it?

In It’s Complicated, author danah boyd writes “In a world in which posting updates is common, purposeful, and performative, sharing often allows teens to control a social situation more than simply opting out. It also guarantees that others can’t
define the social situation” (boyd 75). boyd points out that by sharing small snippets of one’s life, they can effectively partition off a section of their life to remain private. I never realized this as an alternative to simply opting out of social media, and this solution proves much more useful than staying off the internet.

boyd shares a situation in which a teen girl posted embarrassing photos of herself on her profile. When questioned, the girl pointed out that it was far safer that the photos be posted on her own terms. Since her friends also possessed embarrassing photos, posting them before they had a chance “undermined her friends’ ability to define the situation differently” (boyd 75). Not only could she avoid being publicly embarrassed, this gave her an extensive amount of privacy. “Her apparent exhibitionism left plenty of room for people to not focus in on the things that were deeply intimate in her life” (boyd 75).

boyd also draws a comparison to the practice of steganography. By hiding messages in plain sight through “countless linguistic and cultural tools,” (boyd 66) teens can avoid surveillance by their parents. This “social steganography” also relates to the previous situation, in regards to the girl posting her photos online. By putting them out there, she draws attention away from her actual personal life, essentially hiding it in plain sight under the veil of her photos.

Overall, boyd notes that “where people share to maintain privacy, they do because they do not want someone to have power over them” (boyd 75). By selectively choosing what to share, people can form pictures of their life that appear true, but actually only define a small portion of their life. This allows people to maintain their privacy in an ever increasingly invasive society. Although I’ve always desired privacy, I never thought of it concretely as maintaining power over myself. boyd has essentially redefined privacy in a meaningful way that truly captures its essence in today’s world.

Old Man Yells at Cloud

“In her New York Magazine article describing people’s willingness to express themselves publicly, Emily Nussbaum articulated a concern about youth that is widespread: “Kids today. They have no sense of shame. They have no sense of privacy. They are show-offs, fame whores, pornographic little loons who post their diaries, their phone numbers, their stupid poetry—for God’s sake, their dirty photos!—online.”” (pg. 55-56)

As it happens with every generation to the next, adults are constantly criticizing the younger generations and rejecting the advancements that come with them. Popular culture is constantly demonized in a way that can redistribute the blame for modern problems in our society – whether or not they are actually authentic. Regardless of why this is, perhaps because of a reluctance to change and to technology, or because of greater political implications, this attitude will always have real consequences in the ways youth navigate their daily lives. The privacy of teenagers is chronically under an inspective microscope while teenagers are simultaneously under fire for “not respecting privacy”: a little hypocritical, isn’t it? As the author discusses further into the chapter, what is shared on social media is selectively chosen by the user. And as intuitive as this concept should already be, it seems that people expect “privacy” to be a strict definition and expression for every individual. The value my privacy is not what someone else deems it to be, it is what I deem it to be. What I choose not to share with others – that is my “private” life. And because social media is a powerful medium for teenagers to choose who understands what, who reads what, who sees what, they are able to comfortably navigate the perhaps intricate stratification that exists within the very idea of privacy.

Semantics, Semantics

In It’s Complicated, by danah boyd, the author remarks that “Journalists, parents, and technologists seem to believe that a willingness to share in public spaces—and, most certainly, any act of exhibitionism and publicity—is incompatible with a desire for privacy” (56). This observation comes in the middle of a discussion about social media and the complicated boundaries of online spaces. Is social media participation an automatic abandonment of all privacy? And to what extent should information be regarded as private when in these spaces?

In my opinion, just because people decide to use social media does not mean they are forfeiting their privacy. However, the issue lies mostly in the perception of what “privacy” is, and the disparities between the beliefs of adults and youth. Those who grew up without Facebook or Twitter may think that because the general public is able to access that information whenever they want, that information is not private.

However, except for in the cases of celebrities or wildly popular teenagers, many people do not have that many friends or followers. This means that what they share, they choose to share with the relatively small community of people they have built in that online space, and any unwelcome intrusions from those who feel their information is public is just that: unwanted and resented. In the specific case of boyd’s book, this may be teenagers trying to keep what autonomy they can online. But in the eyes of their parents, because they can see the information, they feel entitled to invade their children’s privacy.

A New Perspective on Privacy

“Instead of signaling the end of privacy as we know it, teens’ engagement with social media highlights the complex interplay between privacy and publicity in the networked world we all live in now.” (boyd, 57)

Growing up in a world full of social media, I’ve become used to the idea of a thousand of my “friends” on Facebook seeing every photo I post. However, whenever I add a new picture or update my status, the vast number of people seeing what I have decided to publish is one of the last thoughts on my mind. I believe that social media has somewhat numbed me to the effects of what I post as the access to my information is instantly shared with those following me on social media, thus giving them complete freedom to use this knowledge however they like.

In boyd’s book It’s Complicated, she addresses the relationship between privacy and social media as teens today continue to make more and more aspects of their lives public. While past generations often lived in complete privacy, teens have become used to sharing most of their lives with the world.

But even though fewer aspects of our lives remain private, this does not mean that the concept of privacy has disappeared altogether. Instead, I believe that what we truly wish to remain private often does, as teens understand the drastic consequences social media often brings. Once a photo or text is shared, the sender automatically surrenders its privacy. Because social media gives people the access to publicize everything at their disposal, teens have therefore adjusted to a new perspective of privacy in which it is often only their most valued information that remains completely confidential.

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.

Watch what you post

After reading the article “The 5 biggest online privacy threats of 2013,” you should be aware of how little privacy you have, in case you were not aware of it already. One of the main things you can do, which is also one of the simplest, is to understand that nothing you post or share on the internet is private because someone will be able to get access to it. Therefore you have to be careful about what you share. Aside from just the common sense approach when it comes to the information you can control, we can talk about the regular information that we share with the virtual world without considering the consequences. As mentioned in the article, whenever we share pictures, our location can be tagged to the picture. It is important to be cautious about this because stalking is a serious issue, and if a stalker gets access to your pictures, he/she will be able to track you. This would potentially put you in danger, so you can take precaution by monitoring your settings. This also applies to being careful overall on social media; even if you change your settings hackers can easily access your posts so if you are one who shares every detail about your life, it gives the hackers all the information they would need about you. Overall, you just have to use your common sense to make the right decisions. As long as you are aware of how little privacy you actually have on the internet, you should become more careful about the virtual footprints that you leave.

 

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