Privacy, what’s that?

In the second chapter of Danah Boyd’s It’s Complicated, there are many things discussed revolving around the privacy of teens when participating in social media. She speaks of two things that seem to go hand in hand in many cases: social steganography and the surveillance of parents. As she mentions, it has always been common that teens want privacy from their parents in certain aspects of their lives. The parents of teens today did not grow up with technology the same way that our generation has, usually causing them to want to be ever-present and all-knowing in their child’s life. Teens on the other hand don’t always want their judging, rule-implementing, and lecture-ready parents tracking their every move regarding social interactions. To combat this Boyd mentions, “many of the privacy strategies that teens implement are intended to counter the power dynamic that emerges when parents and other adults feel as though they have the right to watch and listen” (70). From this stems steganography where teens tend to code their messages by posting lyrics, sub-tweeting, etc. This made me think about when I was younger and in middle school or early high school and how my mom would look me up on social media to see what I was doing. I remember feeling frustrated not only because it was my page that I didn’t ask her to view but because there was no reason for her not to trust what I was doing. I was always safe, didn’t talk to strangers, or post things that could be deemed as unacceptable or inappropriate.

Parents seem to think that we don’t care about our privacy to the outside world or understand the dangers, but at what point can they trust that the way they raised us is enough and we will share what we want when we want? I found an interesting video in which Kelly Wallace from CNN discusses that her biggest fear is her children becoming involved with social media. This video was striking because she says at one point, “how will I possibly keep tabs on everything they’re doing?” as if in order to be a good parent she must know every single detail of her child’s life. She goes on to say that in reality parents might not even have a clue because of the ways teens have chosen to encrypt their messages. She gives an example about how someone might post a group photo but intentionally not tag someone as an act of aggression, something that would easily slip by parents viewing the picture. Her solution is to sign up for the social networks that the teens are on and befriend them. However, if teens go through such lengths to keep their parents from knowing what is happening on their social networks, where is the line to be drawn for privacy between teen and parent?

Go On… Without….. Me

My cousin is a 25 year old studying physics in California. Her way of life is extraordinary in that she seems to be very contrarian to popular ways of living. She goes on nature expeditions with her fiancé where they immerse themselves in nature over a few weeks. She values the lives of animals and also her own health: therefore she chose to become a vegan. Her commitment to the diet was a little dangerous. She cracked a rib from the weight loss. But she is undeniably passionate about her lifestyle choices and she is one of the sanest, happiest persons I know. I am always looking forward to her next shocking lifestyle change that has our family asking if she’s quite right in the head.

Her most recent change was no less startling. She has gotten rid of her iPhone in favor of a small, ancient, dinosaur-looking, fossilized object that people of ancient times I believe called a cell phone. And that’s all it is. It can’t do anything but make calls. When the troglodytes come to destroy our technology I believe they will not be able to discern her phone from a rock. Anyway, the point is that she is a believer in REAL human contact and in making the most of her time. She tells me that her old phone was a distraction, unnecessary, and above all killing her humanity. Reading Boyd is killing my humanity. When I read Boyd I see a TON of issues and few solutions. Kids struggling with identity, with self-expression, with privacy. I think the solution here isn’t hard to see. Just get rid of it! Put it down! Or at the least refine how you use it! Is it really that complicated?

Sure, some people might need it for work or for networking for their business profile, I gotcha. But when Boyd talks about how teens are constantly updating their statuses  or  getting into privacy issues (95) I can’t help but feel like social media users have fabricated some nifty problems for themselves out of thin air.

So anyway I’ve realized I’m not so different from my cousin. I used to use Facebook as a means of chatting or posting updates waaaaaaay back in 7th grade. I don’t think I’ve posted a Facebook status in about 5 or 6 years. And to be honest, I would say it feels great not to, and I’m sure it does, but I’ve forgotten what it feels like to post. My profile picture has never changed: I’ve had the same once since middle school started. Boyd has helped me as has my cousin: when life’s getting a bit to complex, or a little sad: go to the roots of humanity! Unplug! Keep it simple silly! If I haven’t been convincing enough: Louis C.K. to take it home.