Social Media: On Matters of Privacy and Control

I recently attended a conference where Social Media was one of the “hot  topics”. I began to explore and discuss the ideas of privacy and social media with some of my peers. I was introduced to an interesting concept, which was that to remove one self from social media is “akin to removing yourself from the conversation(s) of society.”

The idea is that Social Media can be good, just as much as it can be bad. Simply closing yourself off to it is not the solution, as there is many advantages to it. I have friends who simply don’t prescribe to Facebook, or Social Media in general. I have found that sometimes they’re not always in the loop about what’s going on in the world, or the various social circles that they are apart of. I’m not saying these people aren’t intelligent, they are, however I feel as though these people miss out on some of the interesting and wonderful things that comes along with using Social Media. Too much of anything is obviously bad for you, and the saying applies to Social Media. In small controlled doses the experience can be rewarding, but when people abuse or overuse the service it can not only strain yourself but also your peers and co-workers relationships and perceptions of you.

I feel like people can miss the point, or don’t understand their audience. Obviously obnoxious and annoying things happen to all of us every day, but if the main focus of your online social experience with other people is to bitch you’re simply doing it wrong. This is why it’s important to understand the message, and always control the message. On the flip side people don’t want to hear about how everything is perfect or amazing, remember people aren’t one dimensional – so neither should your posts be. Sustenance is key.

Obviously the majority of users have problems with businesses selling their information (Facebook). The unfortunate reality is that we trade our rights to privacy and information (on some level) to use a service like Facebook or Twitter. Being part of this conversation is important, however one must examine the cost of each service as they differ greatly. Twitter, in my opinion is a far better trade off when it comes to giving up personal information, compared to what the user gets out of the service. The beauty of Twitter is that users relationships are kept separate of their personal lives, where as Facebook intermixes communication with new and established relationships online – this can be dodgy at the best of times. Also, Facebook requires a steep cost, and provides a moderate service for what they ask, take, and sell of you.

On a personal note, if someone ever figures out how to properly work Facebook’s privacy settings, I’d appreciate an explanation or crash course. Facebook’s privacy settings are convoluted. I feel like it’s blatantly obvious when you’re on someone’s limited profile – and I have had the wonderful experience of being friends with someone but not being able to see their photos, wall, posts, or friend list. To top it off this person added me! It’s almost like you want to say to this person, “What’s the point in us being friends on Facebook? I’m obviously sharing my information with you, on some level to feel connected and engaged in your life – however this relationship is not reciprocal”. The problem more than not falls back on the fact that Facebook’s privacy settings either make you board your Facebook up, or open it up completely; It’s hard to establish a middle ground. This is why controlling the information is necessary, as you should never put something out there that you would not want one single person to see, read, or know about. Taking ownership for the things you say in person is just as important as taking ownership for the things you say online. This may sound like it requires a great degree of control, but it really doesn’t. I’ll explain.

I began several years ago realizing that there is times when photos are being taken that they may come across as inappropriate. This can be damaging to a person in the short and long term. I also had a run in with one of managers several years ago where he quoted something I said online, luckily I wasn’t fired but it did wake me up to the realization that I am accountable for what I do and say online. I began to actively exercise better judgement when photos are being taken and whether I choose to be part of them. I will actively walk out of a shot sometimes, which isn’t always great to do as you might offend people – but it is great card to play when you’re protecting your own interests.

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