Are We Really Being That Private?

Audio Reading of post attached here

danah boyd clearly has a strong grasp upon social media of today. Her book, It’s Complicated, has a thorough and detailed analysis of the affects the Internet and social media specifically has brought upon the youth of this generation. One of the key points of the second chapter of the book, entitled Privacy, is the idea of social steganography. The concept is, in simplistic terms, hiding messages in plain sight from adults in order to convey messages to other friends and members of groups without the overtly watchful parents being aware of what is being said. While I hear and appreciate most of what boyd says in this section, I do have certain points where I disagree. Primarily of which is with the idea that these types of subtle messages and in-group sayings are used through social media as a form of privacy.

I understand that this whole chapter is set to revolve around privacy, hence why boyd is framing the issue that way, but I see it from a different angle. While the Internet has provided our generation with a lot of ways to come into ourselves and to be private in regards to our interests and communication, I feel the circumstances which boyd talks about are more of a uniting situation than a covert one. For myself personally, I have interests that are not widely popular, the types of music and films I am a fan of are typically not regarded as very standard or popular. So through social media forums such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit, I indulge in those interests with others who share them. You could describe these conversations I have about Ghost BC or Pinkly Smooth or Darren Aronofsky on these social media outlets as private in-group discussions, but the point of them is not to be secretive.

The Internet allows for people to explore and connect with others all around the world that think, feel, and like similarly. At times, that may result in some people using particular phrases and mottos that only other fans would know, but that is not necessarily for super secrecy from others. Social media has brought like-minded people of our generation closer together than ever before, not because teenagers don’t want their parent’s to know what they’re doing, but because teenagers can really connect with these like minded people in a way that can really only be understood by each other, and that is a very cool prospect to me.


Author: James K

My Life consists of the 5 F's: Family, Friends, Film, Football, and Food

6 thoughts on “Are We Really Being That Private?”

  1. I agree with you that while the context in which boyd talks about steganography is geared towards privacy issues and secret messages, there is also a unifying aspect to these actions. That being said, I still feel that boyd’s point holds merit to a great extent. There have been countless times where I’ve opened my Twitter feed and seen someone I follow post song lyrics or a cryptic tweet. Perhaps, when something like lyrics to a song have been posted, for example, it could be a way of seeing who else likes the song. However, more likely than not, when I have seen these types of tweets, I presume that the person posting wants those reading to infer something about their current situation. This person might be upset or angry for some reason.


  2. I think you bring up a really good point that social media brings like-minded people together. Social media provides people with the opportunity to connect with others that share similar interests from all over the world. Sometimes this type of connection can only be found online, or the internet is the place where it begins. While privacy concerns are a big issue for many social media users, there are some that purposefully make their content public in order to find connections with other social media users. I think that this is an interesting perspective to explore because it shows how powerful social media can be in our social lives.


  3. I think certain types of social media have different levels to them. What I would post on my facebook account, on which I’m friends with my high school class, my parents and extended family members, and is full of pictures of me, is different from what I would post on reddit. Curating spaces for like minded individuals seems to be a different kind of use of social media than documenting your life. Both are often used, and both have different cultures to them.


  4. James,

    I love this piece! It has clearly prompted a good conversation about “covert vs. uniting” among your readers. I wonder if a term that might be relevant here is geeky? I don’t mean this as a slam—it’s a term I use to talk about things I’m interested in more than most others: fonts, chess, crossword puzzles, minor league baseball, etc. I agree with you that the internet has made it easier to find others who have these interests. Good stuff!

    I also really enjoyed listening to you read the piece aloud. But let me ask you: Did you feel you were able to bring something to the piece in performing it that wasn’t there in the written text? I’d be interested in talking more about this.



  5. I really enjoyed your point about how our activity on social media is to connect with others. We indulge in things like our twitter feeds and instagram feeds because they are filled with things we are interested in. It is not to be secretive from our parents but to simply explore different worlds. I really enjoy things like food, fashion and music and I can spend hours upon hours on social media sites that deal with the particular aspects of those things that I am fascinated with. Social media can truly be a great form of expression!


  6. At the end of the day I don’t feel any one view is right or wrong, it’s not to say boyd is incorrect and my view is the one that should be listened to. I feel both deserve thought and consideration and have value, I just wanted to propose a alternative view, which I’m glad you all see something in.


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