More Worlds in Collision

December 1, 2007
Posted by Jay Livingston

I posted something recently about the new problems of “audience segregation” created by Facebook and other social networking sites. I had forgotten about a Washington Post article from last June that Eszter had linked to.

The students at a Bethesda high school had a worlds-in-collision experience when they opened their yearbooks and found pictures that the yearbook editors had downloaded from their Facebook pages. The yearbook staff weren’t trying to be stalkers. But they hadn’t taken enough photos themselves, and they were pressed for time, so they went to the Internet and grabbed Facebook photos off friends’ pages. (If this scenario sounds like the one usually associated with plagiarised papers, that’s because it is. Essays, photos, whatever.)

Facebook users can restrict who has access to their pages, an arrangement which sounds like it ensures some degree of privacy. But on second thought, it means that you have entrusted your privacy, your audience control, to all those you designate as friends. It takes only one “friend” facing a yearbook deadline to shatter that wall of privacy. And suddenly the world can see that picture of you and your friends, with your goofy poses and red plastic cups.

“We grew up with the idea that you can share anything you want with your friends through the Internet," said Amy Hemmati, 16, a rising Walter Johnson junior. “I think we're very trusting in the online community, as opposed to adults, who are on the outside looking in.”


Anonymous said...

Great post -- I was about to email the Washington Post article to my 19 and 21 year olds. Then I thought, "How many teens (including mine)get these dire Facebook-warning articles from their parents every couple of months? And ignore them." Is that another trend as well?

Phil said...

It's the same when I was a kid when I'd read articles about how role playing games (of the old dodgy dice variety) and video games supposedly turned you into devil worshippers and/or brain dead zombs. I ignored them. Kids ignoring warnings from parents about Facebook is just the contemporary manifestation of what appears to be an immutable iron law ;)

And yes, I do do Facebook myself.