There is always more than meets the eye

What you post on digital media is what you become defined as. People plan and perfect what they post in order to manipulate their perception. We only post what we want people to see. However, nothing in the digital media is ever truly private so sometimes things fall between the cracks, despite the privacy settings we choose to use. So, that private Facebook photo from last Friday night you only shared with your friends might end up being seen by your employer, even though you selected certain privacy settings — and that photo was probably the complete opposite of the perception you were trying to convey to your employer on LinkedIn. Chapter one of It’s Complicated by dana boyd begins with a story explaining how our identities can be perceived differently online. A student from a bad area in Los Angeles wrote an extraordinary college essay for an Ivy League university about how he wanted to escape the gangs in his community and focus on his education. The admissions officers loved it, but decided to search him on the web in order to learn more about him. They came across his MySpace page, covered in gang symbolism and relations, and reached out to dana boyd for some answers.

They were curious as to why a student would lie about wanting to escape gangs to attend an esteemed university when his entire MySpace profile proved that he was still gang-involved. I was thinking the same thing. I thought about how dumb it was for him to post that kind of stuff when everyone knows that nothing on social media is ever private anymore. The first thing people tell you when you apply for a job or school is to not post anything provocative or stupid. It’s the basics! Then, as I read dana boyd’s reply and thoughts, my entire opinion changed and my mind was opened up to a whole new point of view. boyd replied with, “Perhaps this young man is simply including gang signals on his MySpace profile as a survival technique” (boyd, 29). I suddenly had a realization. This student was still manipulating his posts based on how he wanted to be perceived, but he was doing it to protect himself in order to avoid becoming a gang target. I have never had to use social media as a defense or survival mechanism, and wasn’t aware of those costs. This passage was eye-opening for me because I realized that what people post, even when they do it strategically, never tells their whole story. The digital media represents one side of things, and makes it difficult for us to see past it. I found this video on YouTube and I think it exemplifies how much thought people truly put into their social media posts in order to be perceived a certain way. While it is supposed to be funny and not very meaningful, it still shows how only half of the story is shown online. When you look at someone’s profile online, you don’t see how they rearranged their desk for an artistic photo or how they created their post-workout photo even when they didn’t go to the gym. The digital media represents one side of things, and makes it difficult for us to see past that side. I think this is something extremely important to remember as we continue to use the digital media personally, academically, and professionally. There is always more than meets the eye.

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The Kids Are Alright

After reading the first half of danah boyd’s “It’s Complicated”, I decided that I have been introduced to a somewhat more objective view of how and why people, particularly teens, use the internet and social media. Whereas Carr takes the position that our use of the internet is inherently negative, boyd provides a much more balanced argument and puts our use of the web and social media into a social and cultural context. Moreover, I am enjoying boyd’s work better thus far because she neither celebrates nor bashes the internet. Instead, she simply analyzes why people hold the views that they do regarding this technology.

Although boyd discusses several different topics in each chapter in the first half of the book, her analysis of teens’ perceived addiction to the internet in chapter 3 really got me to think about my own use of social media. Specifically, she says that the media becomes carried away with the idea that our use of sites like Facebook and Twitter is unhealthy, and even leads to addiction. Furthermore, boyd claims that parents and the media worrying about teens’ use of different technologies is not new. “Parents in previous generations fretted about the hours teens whiled away hanging out or chatting on the phone” (boyd 79). I found this to argument to hold merit, just from conversations with my own parents. My mom reminisces about how she used to come home from school and talk with her friends for hours on the phone, gossiping and joking and such, much to my grandmother’s dismay. In fact, the song “Hanging on the Telephone” by Blondie is a good example of how teens used to constantly call their friends using the telephone. In the song, the protagonist keeps attempting to call the guy she likes, but he won’t answer because his mother is there. While we don’t know what the intention of the call is or why the guy’s mother is discouraging the call, the song represents teens’ longing to use the telephone (long before the invention of social media–the song came out in 1978) and parents’ worries about the use of the telephone, even back in the late 1970’s. In conclusion, while my parents have never discouraged me from using social media or the internet, the number of times I’ve been told to take a break from being on the computer or on my phone is more than I can count.

As I continued to navigate through boyd’s argument in this chapter, I was also struck by one of the reasons she provides for why teens use social media so often. Using her interviews with several teenagers, she claims that the use of social media helps them unwind after a long day. “Social media introduces new opportunities for housebound teens to socialize and people-watch, but it also provides an opportunity to relax” (boyd 91). I can personally relate to this quote, as many times, when I find that I have been cooped up all day doing work for school, I enjoy scrolling through various social media feeds before bed. Although staring at my phone or computer prior to sleeping is not necessarily good for my eyes, it certainly helps take my mind off the countless hours of work or studying I had been doing for class. I would say this use of social media is far from addiction. Perhaps I use social media as a remedy to the mundane activities of homework, but this is nowhere near what could be considered a problematic degree of usage. As the band The Who sang in 1965, “The Kids Are Alright” (Though I’m certain the song has a deeper meaning).