Akin Olaniyan is a student in the Social Media MA at the University of Westminster.
Making sense of the obvious tension between online visibility and privacy is never going to be a straightforward thing for me. Having worked as a reporter and a corporate communication specialist for more than two decades, I have some sense of dealing with public scrutiny of my work. Until now, social media was just for me another platform. If you know newspapers, I used to think, you shouldn’t have problems functioning in the new environment that digital convergence has created.
Or so I thought.
Just weeks after arriving for the Social Media MA at
, I have come to agree with danah
boyd that being visible through social media can both complicate and enrich our
lives (boyd, 2012). Social media networking sites like Facebook and Twitter
offer new ways of engagement that have collapsed the walls of privacy,
sometimes with terrible consequences. Henry Jenkins captures this well when he
says, ‘when people take media into their own hands, the results can be wonderfully
creative; they can also be bad news for all involved.’ For me, herein lies the
irony; the thought that we would be willing to trade off a slice of our privacy
for a chance to make ourselves ‘visible.’ Westminster University
The culture of sharing that is one of the tenets of the convergent media environment may be fraught with minefields, but Castells’ point, that, ‘In our society, the protocols of communication are not based on a sharing of culture but on the culture of sharing’ (Castells, 2009) is useful here. The new environment has given us ‘power’ to determine what we create, remix, share, anytime we want and with those we choose.
True, in the social media environment, ‘the media are no longer what just what we watch, listen to or read – the media are now what we do’ (Meikle and Young, 2012). Oh! How we enjoy the newfound freedom, to do away with the middleman and reach out in our network. Never mind that I performed a similar role in a newspaper. Maybe it sounds out of place to ask whether social media serves a critical need. The status updates, the likes and the sometimes, meaningless chatter all serve a need. They bind us together. “Our playful conventions and in-jokes may create insider symbols that help groups to cohere’ as Baym (2010) notes very well.
Notwithstanding, it looks to me like Rosen’s description of the people formerly known as the audience is rather too ‘romantic’. For one, corporate media may no longer ‘own the eyeballs’ as he states but in this process of becoming more active, we lose something important as well. Given what I have leant in just a few weeks, boyd’s argument that, ‘when people assume you share everything, they don’t ask about what you don’t share’ (boyd, 2012), for me, sounds frightening even in the era of ‘Big Brother’. We all have a way of ignoring ‘Big Brother’ until we’re caught in uncompromising positions.
My mind went to Boyd’s position the story of the
students whose Facebook profiles were swiped by ratemash.com and published
without permission, in the latest example of third party misuse of online data.
The all pervasive power of both Facebook and Twitter, to be able to remove
whatever exists of the thin line between the private and the public has got me
taking a second look at my accounts on social media platforms. UK
My goal? Cut out all but the most important of my engagements online. Every text, every image and ever engagement is an opportunity to say something and connect. As Baym (2010) says, “…as people appropriate the possibilities of textual media to convey social cues, create immediacy, entertain, and show off for one another, they build for themselves, build interpersonal relationships, and create social concepts….”
I realize as I do this though, that there’s a chance that I may miss out in other ways but the thought that my profile and other data can be taken, remixed and shared sounds worrying.
Maybe I’m old fashioned but I strongly think there’s a creepy feeling to having a text, say, an unflattering selfie made available on the scale that convergent media makes possible. But having seen the reaction of some of the students whose profiles were swiped by ratemash.com, I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t be embarrassed unless they were in showbiz.
boyd, d. (2012): Participating in the always-on lifestyle. In: Mandiberg, M (ed.) The social media reader. New York/London:
Press, Pp 71-76 New York University
Jenkins, H. (2008): Convergence culture: Where old media and new media collide. New York/London:
Press New York University
Castells, M. (2009): Communication power.
Oxford: Press Oxford
Meikle, G. and Young, S. (2012): Media convergence: Networked Digital media in everyday life.
Rosen, Jay: The people formerly known as the audience. In: Mandiberg, M (ed.) The social media reader. New York/London:
Press, pp. 13-16 New York University