Life: Public By Default

I mindlessly scrolled through Facebook on my phone when, from the corner of my eye, I saw a little red mark appear at the notification symbol. I stopped to ponder (for about a millisecond) what could this notification possibly be for. Did a friend tag me in a post that he or she found hilarious? Was it a reminder that tomorrow was an acquaintance’s birthday? Did a friend upload a photo pf the two of us? I clicked on the notification only to find I had been horribly wrong. It was my mother commenting on an embarrassing photo of myself from the year 2010, every millennial’s worst nightmare. Why was she on my profile looking through my old photos and commenting on them? Embarrassed was an understatement; although thinking about it, the entire situation seems insignificant. I proceeded to delete every photo that I found to be mortifying.

danah boyd encapsulates teenager’s sentiments towards social media relatively accurately in her literary piece, “It’s Complicated”. boyd delves into an analytic approach on the sociology behind the way young adults utilize the internet, social media, and technology. boyd strays away from criticizing social media, taking on a different method from Carr and instead providing raw insight, unbiased commentary, and real examples of the influence and change that technology has brought about for this generation, such as, parents checking up on their children over the Internet and even commenting etiquette between family and who the status was intended for. Her points are thought-provoking; I began to question my usage of social media and how I may use it differently from an acquaintance of mine. I found that not only do I agree with the points boyd makes, but as someone who has dealt with and thought about some of the notions mentioned in the text, I was able to relate.

boyd uses a sociological lens to further her points, making her examples stick out to me. She provided an example of the difference between a black high school soccer player, who was not provided with a name, and his white high school classmate named Matthew. The black student focused mostly on portraying his profile in a way that resembled a resume to impress potential recruiters, while Matthew, the white student, shared images and other statuses that could possibly have negative connotations when interpreted in the wrong way. Personally, I try to remain somewhat ‘clean cut’ on Facebook as I am friends with my family and old teachers from high school. It doesn’t occur to me even that I subconsciously think about something before I post it; I can create myself on Facebook and the person I want to portray. However, there might be more to say on the topic of race. When looking at the situation between the black and white high school student, there is a disparity about how race may play into the social freedoms of posting whatever you want online. There could be a possibility that I may be thinking too in depth on this subject, but with the injustices towards black people, how they are constantly scrutinized by the public while white people are excused for most things, the idea does not seem too far gone.

boyd explores this idea of customizing yourself on social media and who it is you want to be. You can hide certain parts of your life, treat the Internet as your diary, or generally joke around about your identity. There is so much power to that and a general concept that the older generations do not understand. boyd illustrates that there is a completely different mentality online, on social media rather. We understand that we control certain aspects of what people see, what we say, how we say it, and who we interact with. In other words, taken from boyd, if you so choose to, your life can be public by default.

Author: Ashley M

I major in both Neuroscience and Cognitive Science at the University of Delaware. My goal for this blog is to provide thought-provoking responses to our use of technology, how it has changed, and how we use it today in order to have a better understanding of the ever-changing digital world.

6 thoughts on “Life: Public By Default”

  1. Well written, as always, Ashley! I agree with you that public by default is one of boyd’s most intriguing ideas. I’m a little confused, though, by the “if you choose to” in your last line—doesn’t default basically mean what happens without choosing? Also, I wonder if you might point to some moments in Schultze’s talk you feel are especially relevant to boyd? ~Joe

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Prof. Harris! I really appreciate your kind words. I just realized that it may have come across as confusing as I mentioned you can choose to put certain parts of your life online. What I meant by that is, we have the ability to pick particular parts to be seen, but these statuses, pictures, and our identities, these things that we choose to put online are up for public display.

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  2. Ashley, I love how you always start your posts with an anecdote. It puts me in your shoes from the start, and I really like that. I also often connect with these small anecdotes – especially parents on Facebook!! I too have been pondering the idea of how we portray ourselves on social media and what it truly means. We shape and mold ourselves into these facades we want people to see, instead of who we truly are. How could we translate who we truly are to a computer screen anyway? What choices and possibilities does this leave us with? And what I’ve been considering the most, how does this in turn hurt our self expectations and make them highly unrealistic? In my post, I talk about how I could seemingly know a person entirely based on their Instagram, or at least think I do. I’m sort of becoming afraid of this fact, and how it could pose on future generations.

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    1. Thank you so much, Ellie for your extremely kind words! I’m so glad you can relate! Also, I really appreciate your insight in furthering the idea I’m trying to get across. I think it might get worse later in time because it’s so easy to pick and choose what we post and how we want to come across, making things extremely unrealistic and hard to believe whether the person you’re looking at on Instagram per-say, is actually who they appear to be.

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  3. I totally get what you’re saying. You can choose to be public by posting pictures of yourself or checking in every time you go out, or you can use social media without showing the public eye who you are. Which one is better?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes exactly! I guess it really depends on the person, I personally like to post pictures on Instagram with friends and such, but I can see how someone who may want to live a more private life will avoid doing such things.

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