Self Expression, Risk Taking, and the Internet, our Power Point Presentation
My essay is Risk and Self Expression
Self Expression, Risks, and the Internet
Social Network Sites, or SNS’s, have quickly grown in today’s society. As the Internet becomes more prevalent in modern society, websites that allow users to create and maintain online profiles and personalities will gain more traffic and value. One reason that SNS’s have grown so quickly is how attractive they are to younger generations. As the Internet becomes the new frontier to be explored, SNS’s that offer profile pages, such as MySpace, give users an opportunity to have their own private space. The question that arises with this kind of interaction is if something on the Internet can really be private. As a public space, is it possible for the Internet to allow a solid barrier to be formed around some ones “private information” if its purpose of existence is to share itself with other people? As self expression and the desire for a private space on the Internet grows it will become more important for social networking sites to offer powerful security options so users can ensure their information is going to the right person and are able to express themselves with fewer restrictions.
The most prevalent method for restricting access to information is to simply select if a profile is public or private. If a profile is public than anyone can see all of the information on the profile. If a profile is private than only “friends” can view the profile. This allows for information to be censored from a lot of people, but makes it more difficult to maintain connections with people since they must be requested as a friend first. The main problem with this setup is that people inherently have more complicated classifications for their friends than a simple yes or no (Livingstone, 405). Because teenagers are unable to differentiate between which of their friends learns different things about them they are not able to share as much as they might have otherwise, or are forced to share more information than they would have otherwise.
All users must decide to share more information with some people, or less information with others. “Rather than compromise their privacy too far, many of those interviewed chose to express their more personal experiences (as defined by them, not by adult society) using other modes of communication “ (Livingstone, 408). Because of this it is possible that SNS’s are losing some of their potential by not offering the desired privacy format. Another risk with offering a black and white option of private or public is that users who do not share information using “other modes of communication “ may friend more people than they would like to otherwise so that they can exchange at least some information. Boyd says “teens are often promiscuous with who they are willing to add as Friends on the site. By connecting to anyone who seems interesting, they gain control over the structure. Yet, this presents different problems because massive Friending introduces a flood of content with no tools to manage it”(132). The all or nothing flow of information once friend requests are accepted can be problematic if users are not thoughtful before deciding whom they open the dam for.
It is important for SNS users to not fall into a false sense of security because they are “private.” Conversely, public profiles are not always completely exposed. For example, on MySpace of only five of forty-five users had some sort of privacy settings to prevent being sent messages, but of those forty only 4 accepted friendship requests from strangers (Goettke and Christiana, 6). Because users are more exposed doesn’t mean that they aren’t wary of the dangers, and of the users who responded to random friendship requests, all agreed that they view privacy as their own responsibility. Private profiles on the other hand can potentially fall victim to overeager friending and may not be able to manage all of the people that they find interesting.
The dangers of sharing information are varied and diverse. Attacks come in three different forms, physical, fiscal, emotional. Sharing information on locations, routines, etc. opens up the potential for stalkers and pedophiles to easily track and follow person’s movements. “Whoever views a profile is also able to connect the real first and last name of a person to the personal information provided – that may include birthday or current residence” (Gross and Acquisti, 5). This kind of information can be used not only to track some ones movements, but also to fake their identity. Having that kind of personal information in one location can make it easier to estimate some ones social security number or verify an identity with some companies. Finally, by exposing personal information users pose the risk of emotional attacks, also known as cyber-bullying.
The key with all of this is risk. All users must decide on a balance between self-expression and potential dangers of the Internet. Current SNS’s allow for a lot of information to be placed on the Internet, but for SNS’s to live up to their true potential, the next step must be to allow for more sophisticated and subtle security features. By filtering information into zones, like the present generation seems to be doing, SNS’s will be able to offer more security. This will in turn make users more comfortable and give them the confidence to make their profiles truly a reflection of their personalities. As society works towards a world without risk, it also works towards a world where everyone can embrace their personalities and share them online, a future where all online identities match the physical world.