Facebook: Private or Public?
A student perspective
The new age of technology has muddied the distinction between private and public. Over the course of 12 years, Marc Zuckerberg has turned his product, Facebook, into an immense social network used worldwide by more than 1-billion people. The site claims to help people connect and share with other people in their lives. This is all well and good for business, but with the growth of the website has come the ability to easily “connect” which promotes the question who is really “connecting” to whom?
During an interview with a Sonoma Valley High School senior named Martha (last names were withheld for confidentiality), when asked how frequently she checks her profile, she confessed to once or twice daily. Not surprisingly, Martha is not a minority. Internet offered on cell phones has given Martha a virtual community in the palm of her hand.
But just how genuine is the Facebook community?
That depends upon the information supplied by individual users, who control how much or how little they will share and, more loosely, who that information will be shared with. This ability to control personal appearance on the web takes away from the intimacy present in a person-to-person relationship. And that lack of intimacy can lead to a lack of integrity.
Christina, an anti-Facebook student at Sonoma High, believes that this lack of integrity is rampant on Facebook. “Communicating online so frequently and rapidly takes away from the needed personal reflection in a dialogue,” she said. Uploading videos and photos takes less than minutes and entering a post or accepting a friend request takes a fraction of a second. The result is private information shared at lightning pace.
Christina recalls examples of this on campus when teens at Sonoma High “post pictures of themselves and friends doing illegal activities.” It disappoints her that teenagers have fallen victim to the blur of public and private information. If Facebook is home to a large number of teens acting and posting in the same manner, what does one individual in a crowd of millions matter?
For college-bound seniors, marketing a positive self image is very important and is crucial for their college acceptance. In the ultra-competitive world of college admissions, top schools have sought new ways to weed out applicants. Nearly 25 percent of colleges nationwide are using Facebook to learn about potential students, according to a poll by USA Today. Tips from prospective students can be used against other students seeking the same academic acceptance. And why not? For students whose digital personality is nothing like what appears on their application, this poses a problem.
The debate over whether colleges are infringing on the applicant’s privacy by checking their profile can be resolved by the fact that there is no legal privacy guarantee on Facebook. Zuckerberg does offer a variety of privacy measures on Facebook to secure information of the user, though there is still a risk factor involved. Ultimately, what one posts is what one gets; the greatest measure of privacy is practicing a conservative-to-modest personal display on the web.
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Maddie Goertzen is a senior at Sonoma Valley High School.