The Evolution of Me

Goodbye Carr, hello Boyd. After Carr’s 257 pages of constant criticism on technology and the many negative effects it has not only on our social interaction, but on our actual brain connections, Boyd’s polar opposite mindset feels as if I can finally come up for air. I have never truly resonated so much with a book until now. Honestly, at times, I find her analysis of teens and their uses of technology to be creepingly accurate. It’s almost as if she has opened a window to my brain, and can see everything I think and feel. Boyd is finally the one adult that seems to understand the processes I go through everyday regarding what I post, who I post to, and even when to post.

In the first few chapters of her book, Boyd talks about identity expression and steganography. In her discussion of identity expression, Boyd explains how teens use social media as a way to find themselves and transition from childhood to adulthood. Because of the various networks the internet has to offer, many teens find themselves having to create different personas and identities on each site. Myself, included. When I first opened an account on Facebook, I used it as a way to connect with friends old and new.  Just as Boyd describes, I used to add my best friends as part of my “family” and constantly post on their walls just to say hello. Now, 9 years after creating a profile, my use of Facebook is limited to reposting Buzzfeed videos and checking the pages of the clubs I’m involved in. I don’t see Facebook as a means to follow the lives of my friends anymore, because a lot of people my age no longer use Facebook as vigorously as before. My current identity expression is most seen on my Instagram. There, I purposely plan what pictures I post and how they are presented, hoping to make an impression on people. To me, Instagram is sort of like my brand. It advertises my life, relationships, and hobbies. Anyone could get a clear sense of who I am and what I like to do, just by scrolling through my feed.

I specifically resonated with Boyd’s introduction to steganography in the digital age: subtweeting. We’ve all done it or have seen someone do it. And boy does it suck when you’re the person who is being subtweeted about. Or at least, you think the subtweet was about you…was it? I can’t tell you how many times I have read my friends’ subtweets and wondered whether they were talking about me. The crazy thing is, I will still wonder even when nothing has happened between me and that friend for a subtweet to be initiated. Any time that I have tried to subtweet, it always ends up back firing on me. If I am upset with someone and I subtweet them, I am always contacted by random people asking if I’m okay. Or worse, the person I subtweeted confronts me about it. This has happened so often, that I have stopped all subtweeting in general, afraid of someone reading my tweets and posts out of context. Boyd points out this very issue in Chapter 1. She talks about how all posts can be taken out of context, because the writer or “poster” doesn’t intend for their message to be read by everyone. They only have a distinct audience in mind.

As I continue to read her work, I am sure more of my own experiences will match many of the examples that she provides as evidence to her points. I look forward to reading more on her refreshing view of teens and technology. Her optimistic viewpoint certainly decreases the fear I once had about technology ruining our lives. (Thanks a lot, Carr)

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?