Me, Myself and Privacy

‘Exclusive Bathtime’ by Cooper Barrientos 11/4/21

It’s hard to think of a time when I’ve felt truly authentic and myself when using social media. I mean there are certain specifics moments and contexts with close friends that I’ve let loose and been myself around when playing online games or talking in group chats, but social media like Instagram and Snapchat have always kept me cautious and weary of my online privacy. But why?

Ever since being introduced to computers and the internet not only have my parents carefully limited what I can do on there but have constantly yelled out the dangers and risks associated with every little action!

‘Don’t click on the second website page!’

‘Don’t click on the ads… Even if they look like games!’

‘No Facebook!!!!!’

‘OKAYYYYYYYY I GET IT MUM’

Being young and curious I proceeded to still do all of these things aside from Facebook. A strange fascination was spawned inside me, why does this boring website have such a bad rap? I mean, mum only used it for looking at pictures of family members and for Football or Netball teams right?

I feel this same confusion was naturally reinforced in many kids growing up around the same time as me. Many conversations during recesses and lunches centring around those kids that were allowed to use it and how ‘unfair’ it all was, then only to have lengthy non-negotiable talk about cyber bullying as part of the curriculum. What I’m getting at here is that by the time I turned 15 and actually acquired Facebook for my job I had nothing but fears of privacy intrusions using the service.

Screenshot from my Instagram Account and its abundant near emptiness

Thus, naturally I became the true enemy of any social media student at university… An online ‘Wallflower’!

I feel your shudder even now, but for the last 5 years of my online presence I’ve done little more than the occasional Birthday post on Instagram and the even more infrequent Facebook profile picture change!

My inconsistent posting and attempts at connecting to others no doubt has relevance to my awkward teen years but behind a lot of those fears lay the alien concept of giving away bits of myself online that my parents and school had engrained in me. The thought of strangers taking this info on myself and using it in menacing ways scared me away from investing many posts from my life and mind. Not only that but the distressing fears of social backlash and exclusion from peers and friends, if I posted something deemed cringe it’d never be let go!

‘How can I get hurt if I don’t post anything?’

‘Everyone hates on social media already as it is, I don’t have to worry about it if I don’t want to’

It didn’t help that everything done online stayed online within the internet’s infinite memory. “Mobility of selves in online presentation is located in time and ever-changing” Smith & Watson (2014), p.90 brings forth he notion that while we may experience time linearly, our self representation remains ever immortalised online in a form of stasis. We may get older but what we place online remains the same as it did at the time of posting. What if I were to say something stupid and face it later with regret?

It’s only been since my introduction to Deakin University’s ALM101 and ALM102 classes, that I’ve discovered the truth of social media usage and privacy… That it’s all up to me! I decide what pictures of myself I release, what I write about my personal life and how I choose to represent myself online as well as in person.

Overcoming this belief of fragile privacy has been a large challenge for myself but a rewarding revelation none the less. After reading out unit chair Adam Brown’s online blog ‘On Privacy’ (2020) it became clear to myself that I am in control of what others know about me and as such I have the responsibility to respectfully create that image of myself through not only my relationships in person but also my digital self.

Over this year I’ve strived to put myself out there a little more bit by bit. I don’t need to mention anything I wouldn’t be comfortable with telling a new acquaintance, but I should make an effort to put my name out there and reach out to others. Not only because it’s a strong relevant way to network and advertise ourselves but also because I have a duty to represent myself how I want to be.

I implore others to try it out as well. Who knows? Maybe you’ll make someone’s day with a comment, or maybe you’ll make contact with a future employer.

References
Smith, S and Watson, J 2013, ‘Virtually Me: A Toolbox about Online Self-Presentation’, in Poletti, A and Rak, J (eds), Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online, The University of Wisconsin Press, Madision, pp. 70-95 accessed 25 April 2021

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