The Internet, Dangerous and Free

Reaffirming the Internet's amazing powers of communication and social networking, and their implications, is the rise of the controversial new household issue of profile regulation. Parents are afraid of what their child's profile might look like and who might see it, and children are afraid that their parents might see their profile and make them change it. A child's appearance and actions in virtual reality seem to be under even more scrutiny than his actions in the real world. For instance, parents do not watch recordings of a child's day-to-day life, yet looking at the records of a child's virtual life and interactions is increasingly becoming considered appropriate. The core of this issue lies in the simultaneously Utopian and dangerous nature of these cyber social networks' faceless mode of Internet communication, performance, and Being.
Facebook, MySpace, and Friendster represent all users with a customizable profile for which the user provides their own content and composition. As Boyd pus it, to truly be in these networks one must "learn to write oneself into being," revealing these networks as realms of total self-invention and self-determination. Freedom is a highly valued implication of the self-creation possible in this mode of socialization; one is whom one chooses to be. Surpassing the inconvenience and possibly superficial judgments of skin, bone, and physical presence, this new system of being is also extremely equitable: it is a web of people all represented by the same means, and all that's required to join is an e-mail address. The openness inherent in the system presented makes many dreams into actual possibilities such as the free, instant flow of information, conversation, and ideas. People can be judged and interacted with based on the content of their free expression, instead of what they look like or how they talk. All these factors make the social networking sites seem like an emerging utopian center for social being and free human interaction, but in fact this self-determinism is a two-edged sword.
Perhaps the biggest risk of networking sites is its characteristic of the "invisible audience," compared to unmediated networks' known audience. In the physical public one limits one's actions to those considered socially acceptable, operating under the assumption that someone could always be watching. However, in the virtual world, this assumption does not hold. On a social networking site one operates assuming that either no one is watching, or that one is performing solely in front of an invisible audience. The decreased regulation and monitoring combined with the increased possibilities of freedom of expression available in online social networks produces some very dangerous possibilities, and thus often incites a parent's concern. The nature of the unknown, invisible audience tilts online social networking interactions towards performance; one may present, or write, oneself into any kind of being possible, without anyone disputing it. The word "profile" itself suggests an incomplete view of someone, an outline of the face; on social networking sites the side of the face presented is completely dictated by the person being presented. Essentially, appearance and the world of seems easily can replace and distort the true being of the object represented, and since on MySpace, for example, this distortion is quite common, one must ask what the true value, and intention of the discourse on the internet's social sites is.
The Internet and these social networking sites are so valuable to children because they are boundless, and full of options, such as the possibility of being a self-made-man. Parents wish to regulate the internet and these sites for the same reasons: they desire to fill that void of the ever present, watching eye inherent in most other public and social encounters.

Really thoughtful and well-written!