« Be Responsible For Your OWN Privacy | Main | Internet social problem »

Profile Builders Anonymous

Hello. My name is Andrew. I have been Facebook free for...about a day.
I feel compelled to keep up with my social networking sites because I use them mostly to maintain long-distance friendships; friendships which otherwise would be hard to proliferate. There is no doubt though that my information is much more widely available that simply to those I make actual, active, efforts to contact. As far as Facebook is concerned, I have reduced the amount of information displayed about myself for the simple fact that I don't feel it is necessary. When it updates me on people's posts, on another third-party's wall, I feel a bit gluttonous in this new form of global village human experience. At the same time, I have little problem with people seeing my basic profile--it's pretty bare-bones anyhow. It reminds me of someone I heard say "You can't put your phone number online," to the response "Why, what are they going to do? Call me?"
I don't want to contend that people should be more lax with their information however. It is obvious that there must be as a spectrum of options for different levels of comfortability with the specific community in which information is shared. This wide range of options, though, must be observed with an awareness that all information, no matter in what context, could be recovered or examined by a third party. This leaves companies free to deny (legally) responsibility for shared information because the fine print of the internet is just that much easier to skim it seems. Laura Gurak speaks of this in this week's passage. Most frightening of all, aside from over-ambitious companies looking to gloss over the fact that they take and use your information often guiltlessly, is the low amount of awareness among the mass-population of internet users. The head-over-heels acceptance of the internet into our lives goes as deep as the legislation that is repeatedly rushed through approval in a vein attempt to stay up with the times.
This combined with an amazingly massive user-base makes everything high-stakes with unknown odds. The data we covered this week was a fine example of this mass-usage and active participation. A part of the data in "Social Networking Websites and Teens: An Overview" struck me, " 5% of online teens who reported use of a social networking site said they had not posted a profile online, which suggests that there is a very small subset of visitors to social networking websites who merely view the profiles of others and do not create profiles of their own." This illustrates our changing concept of social acceptability regarding the internet and specifically hyper-social sites like Facebook.
I think there is some validity in the writings from the University of Minnesota and Cornell regarding SNS's. It is important that a school at least addresses an issue that will arise in student life, but beyond that, it's a very user-controlled reality. It is a personal choice what to post, and what to omit. Legally and socially, though, universities have no obligation to fulfill. This sentiment seems vaguely present in the two pieces, Cornell's a bit more personal and conversational whereas the University of Minnesota piece was short, concise and formal.
Whatever the case, I think I've found my balance of feeling secure and staying in touch and wouldn't look to the university for guidance in such a matter anyhow, making such informal and unrequited policies seem like more of a public service.

Comments

Your first sentence (similar to an Alcoholics Anonymous group) reminded me of something a friend of mine about cell phones. "I don't like them because I feel like I am their dog." That can really explain how Facebook and cellphones alike work, you want them to acknowledge you. You want to be called, to be poked, to be messaged. Posting a profile on Facebook and having no friends is like a dog with out an owner; obviously a place no dog wants to be.

Hi: Good post! What do you think about the difference in the U of MN and Cornell policies? Specifically, Cornell said they would not monitor the site for student misbehavior, while the U of MN said that if illegal behaviour was in evidence, the student would be accountable.

It surprised me too, that so many teens are sharing information online, but seem to be pretty savvy about controlling privacy. I don't think there is anything wrong with wanting to connect wiht other users, but someone or something should let them know who owns the data at the end of the day.

I agree with you that most of us are terrible readers of the fine print of agreements. This week's readings really gave me pause.