Dangers of a social life

Social networking and my generation's magnetic attraction to its use seems to be a defining characteristic that goes along with our rampant use of the internet. As Boyd points out, while not everyone uses social networking sites, the most popular being MySpace, Facebook and YouTube, everyone does have something to say about them. Additionally, both MySpace and YouTube have expanded beyond just the basic social network consisting of people with their personal profiles or videos. Bands promote and share their music with fans, businesses create free spaces for themselves to demonstrate their product with pictures, videos and whatever else they can cram into their respective pages, and even political movements are brought to light in the form of videos crafted to attract as much attention as possible.

One serious trend in the world of social networking is privacy of the sites. All social networking sites at the very base are free for the users: sites are run using mass advertising money. These kinds of ads have been getting more and more advanced as the years have passed. Instead of a simple banner, ads now flash and are interactive to get your attention, although when it comes down to it they are still surprisingly simple (click this button enough and win a free iPod/TV/Xbox etc). The latest advancement, however, is the ability to take information from your profile (in the case of MySpace mainly) and tailor the advertisements to your likes.

An example of this is one of my hobbies is airsoft. All along the side of the myspace page, there are ads for cheap airsoft products just waiting to be clicked. While, like most people, I choose to ignore those ads, the idea behind the tailored advertisements is a little scary. There are programs now that take the information from a profile filter it into advertisements that are relevant for YOU. If MySpace can filter through the endless information on a profile, what is stopping anyone else? Will there be a finder that can connect any alcohol related comments or references and the user's given age? Will paranoia increase as any comment on your wall suddenly shifts the advertising, as if it's following your every move? Will parents actually develop the technical skill to use these kinds of programs?

Privacy, it seems, is already an issue enough for social networking sites. Boyd explains how teenagers now are forced to create multiple accounts in order to have their own space while still maintaining a façade in order to satisfy concerned parents. YouTube users are now in the habit of hiding their identity in videos (ala Vlad the Impaler as noted by Lange). Many people have switched to using facebook as a way of escaping the endless advertising, rampart hackers and prying parents. But facebook has one upped the prying business with the new mini-feed and the surprising fact that now anyone can have a facebook (finding out my mom had one put me into a scramble). The threat of the wrong person accessing your profile and seeing the you that you show your friends is now very real. Boyd cites a situation where a college saw a myspace and was considering rejecting the student.

What it comes down to it seems, is how we value our privacy and how we respond. People create social networking accounts in order to express themselves and show the person they want to be seen as to their friends. People spend countless hours customizing their pages and making videos so that they are just right. But the tools of discovery of these pages that contain our persona the way we want to be seen are getting more advanced and more used. The person I want my parents, teachers and potential bosses to see is not the same person that I am to my friends. One solution is to have an entire group of accounts for just such an occasion: one for parents (where I have to show something so that my parents don't get suspicious), one completely clean for teachers, employers, and while I'm at it, why not a different page for my male and female friends? For many, including myself, social networking has started to become too dangerous to use. I don't want to maintain "safe" pages for every occasion. But I also don't want the drama that sometimes goes along within social networking. That is the root of the problem I think, and if I have to actually call my friends or even (gasp!) see them to make plans and protect my privacy, then social networking has one less customer.