Sunday, November 7, 2010

Reflection/The Last Post

This is it, The Last Post.
If I was a blogging veteran, I would probably throw in a reference to ANZAC day here, you know, with "The Last Post" and all? I can't quite think of a good one, so this will have to do. Though I am not yet a blogging veteran, I feel I have come a long way.

I must say, first and foremost, that I feel a lot more comfortable writing a blog entry than I did at the start of the semester. I've known friends to be criticised for what they say in their blog, or even just for having a blog. I suppose I subscribed to the idea that blogs are a little self indulgent. I'm not sure that I particularly believe that now. If writing a blog is something that you enjoy doing, as long as you aren't harming anybody else, there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with doing it, as far as I'm concerned. Those that feel your blog is pointless or pretentious can opt simply not to read it. Problem solved.

As I look back on my blog posts for this subject, what is most interesting is that I can view my thought process, as I read through each blog. While writing an essay, what I end up with is a very refined version of a lot of research and information. With this blog though, I used each entry to focus on one key question. I would then pour out a stream of thoughts and information, which then led me to an answer. Much of the time, I would already have an answer. What the blog allowed me to do was to find out why that was my answer, and whether or not my natural response was justifiable. This helped me a lot when I did my essay, as I already understood what was at the core of many of the issues I wrote about in the essay, having gone through them in my blog.

Unfortunately, it wasn't until yesterday that while going through LMS that I found a section with blog instructions, tucked away in some folder that I apparently hadn't checked for the whole semester. Apparently, each blog entry is supposed to be roughly 300 words. To borrow from a social networking site, FML. My understanding was that it was up to each of us in the class to determine how long our blog entries were to be. I certainly hadn't heard the number 300 thrown around.

Some of my entries are clearly more than 300 words, but upon reflection, I'm not sure that they could really have been that much less. I remember being informed that the blog was to be used as a way of reflecting on some of the key questions of the course. This was what I did, and it was only because some of these questions had answers that were quite intricate that my blog entries ended up being so long. Oh well. I apologise for perhaps not being quite as direct as I could have been, though I still believe that allowing myself to work through the ins and outs of the important questions helped me through the course, and I perhaps wouldn't have been able to do so in 300 words.

And now, even this entry is getting a little long, so I will end it shortly. The thing that I liked most about this blog, was the freedom to write the way my thoughts occurred to me, rather than presenting only a glossy, finished piece of writing. I can see why so many people write blogs, particularly journalists, who can perhaps afford to be a bit more controversial, as well as write longer, more detailed pieces than they would ever get published. Though I began this class skeptical about blogs, whilst I may not continue writing a blog after this subject, I can certainly understand why others might. Then again, there are a number of things I enjoy thinking, and sharing thoughts about, so perhaps I will start a blog one day. When I do, though, it's more likely to be about Football or music, than it is about social media. But that's the whole point of blogs, and online media in general. They can be whatever each of us wants them to be. And if my blog sucks, there's nobody to blame but myself.

It's working! Technology is working!

Alright, I have a confession to make. This class is nearing the end, and the further into this subject I have got, the more my thoughts towards new technologies have changed.

For example, in the first few weeks of this course, I doubted the potential of the class wiki. I wasn't sure that the wiki would be of any use. While I quite like wikipedia, I didn't see the point in having a blog that focused only on digital media. As I've added things, and read bits and pieces on it throughout the semester however, this has changed. Before I began writing my essay, I had a look through the annotated bibliography, to find articles that might have be useful for my essay. After all, the articles were all related to social media, which was exactly what my essay was on. Obviously.

So after I found some useful articles, I realised that there may be others in a similar position to me. Not just those doing the same course, but perhaps Media students doing VCE, hoping to get an advantage on others by reading up on various forms of media. Whilst I imagine a VCE student this inventive and motivated might be hard to find, surely, it's possible, right? A friend of mine got a study score of 50 for media, and he never did anything like that... But still, I think that if lots of media students knew about this wiki, at least some of them would find a use for it.

Last week, while writing my essay, something occurred that gave our class wiki one final stamp of approval. I was writing about how social networking websites can give people a place to share artwork, or photos, which can help them create a network of people who share an interest. A website where you can share artwork also opens up career opportunities, and can get you "known", as long as your art is good enough.

I felt that this was a particularly valid point in my essay, though I had just one problem. I couldn't remember the name of the website I was thinking of. There are several websites that fall into the category I have just described, but I had one in particular in mind.

First of all, I went onto Facebook, and thought that perhaps I could ask a friend what the site I was thinking of was called. This is significant in itself, the fact that Facebook was my first resource. While Facebook has become a very useful source of information for me, this time it didn't deliver, as there was no-one online who I could ask.

What I really needed was a list of social networking sites, accompanied by a small annotation describing the site. And then it hit me. The class wiki! That was exactly what I needed.

So I went to the class wiki, and within seconds found what i was looking for. The name DeviantArt rang a bell, and once I clicked on it, the description confirmed what I had thought. This was the website I was writing about.

I have no doubt that the class wiki is a handy resource to know about, and is a helpful asset to anyone completing this subject. I found it particularly amusing that the wiki helped me to write my essay, and then I have retold this whole story here, on my class blog.

Finally, the ways in which modern media technologies can be used as resources are becoming clearer to me. I feel quite technology-savvy at this point in time.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

How times have changed...

I don't consider myself to be the most technology-savvy person going around, because, quite frankly, I'm not. I am a 21 year old male, who has grown up with computers, and the internet, yet more often than not, if I want to install a new program, or do anything outside of what I normally do on a computer, I need to ask a friend for help. However, while I am not perhaps as down-with-it, as I might like to be, there are people I know who are completely out-of-it, when it comes to keeping up with technology.

The technical term for these people is "old people". I don't mean to be rude, but from my experiences, everyone over, say, 70 years of age, is relatively incompetent, when it comes to dealing with even the simplest technological devices, eg, turning on a computer.

Several weeks ago, I found myself in a neighbour's house. This lady is about 80 years old, and has become a family friend of sorts over the years. If she has any questions about technology, I'm the one she comes to. These questions aren't along the lines of "How do I install the new Windows Vista?", as she doesn't have a computer. They're more like "Can you change the time on my alarm clock? I turned it off at the switch by accident, and now it's just flashing 12:00".

You get the idea.

Anyway, as we were talking, she began telling me a story of how she had been wanting to watch Rod Stewart perform "Tonight's the night" on a talk-show many years ago, but her husband had turned off the television, as he wasn't keen on her watching a "lair". This happened about 20 years ago, and she still regrets missing the performance.

My response was "You could probably watch it on the internet", to which she replied "Do you think?"

This got me thinking about what it must be like, to live without the internet, or without any of the technology we take for granted today. As she doesn't have the internet, or a computer, she may never get to see that footage.

I'm a supporter of the Essendon Football Club, and, emotionally, am still coming to grips with the retirement of James Hird. I realise that I may never see an Essendon player of his calibre ever again. What keeps me going though, other than the many replayed football games I get my girlfriend to record, off channel 72, is the youtube clips.

There are many criticisms of websites such as "youtube", such as the fact that it has made several people celebrities of sorts, who perhaps shouldn't have been. The "chk-chk boom" girl, was one example that springs to mind. But I'm not interested in debating the social issues that come from a website such as youtube. Any website that allows me to view videos of my favourite footballer, for free, whenever I want, gets the tick in my books.

There may be a lot of crap on youtube, or on the internet in general, but amongst all the crap, there are definitely some gems. If you know what you're looking for, and are lucky enough to find it, it won't matter to you how many people idolised "Corey, the partyboy" from Narre Warren. It is up to each of us to use these websites the way we want to. For perhaps the first time ever, there is a medium that the uses and gratifications model fits with. It is the internet, and social media. As we get to choose what we upload, as well as view on youtube, we have a choice to use this media form in just about any way we want to.

It's amazing to think that as I write this, there are those living around me who are a little older, don't interact with new forms of media such as youtube, and subsequently, don't have access to videos, photos, or information that they might desire. Next time my neighbour comes around, I might just see if I can find that Rod Stewart video for her.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Privacy, as controlled by others

I have already written a blog entry about privacy, and how I believe that a person's online profile can be as existant or non-existant as they want it to be. However, this blog entry will focus on the privacy that is controlled by other people. An article written by Jason Dowling and Paul Austin, that was published in The Age earlier this year touches on a number of privacy issues that involve modern technology. The article, Mobiles a 'threat' to privacy discusses the "Law Reform Commision report", which detailed an increase in the amount of technology that could function as a surveillance device. (Dowling, 2010)

The fact that most mobile phones are now capable of capturing video footage is one way in which people's lives are at risk of change, in terms of their privacy being compromised. It is fairly easy to take a video of an unsuspecting person; you just need to pretend you're reading a message on your phone and point it at them. As the Law Reform Commision suggest, there are several "commonsense" laws that should be put into action in regards to mobile phones. People shouldn't be allowed to take video footage in public toilets, changerooms, or any other private areas. That seems reasonable.

The article also states that myki cards have a radio frequency identification device, that could be used as a tracking device. Again, this is nothing to be concerned about, as long as... Wait. My Myki card can be used as a tracking device? I'm not keen on that at all. Now, I am concerned. Billions of dollars were spent on the Myki ticketing system, which only seems to have one real benefit; that it is slightly cheaper than buying a metcard. I can't help but wonder why a Myki card can be used as a tracking device. Having read 1984 several years ago, things like this freak me out. I certainly didn't approve of my taxes going towards a concept such as Myki. I find it unnerving that someone I don't know and can't see has access to information regarding my whereabouts, and travel patterns.

As I found myself reading through the article, and having varied reactions to the different problems that the article raised, I noticed a pattern. Issues such as filming people in private places, and people filming violence for entertainment didn't bother me all that much. I don't approve of these things, but I feel there is a simple answer. If a law is made to prevent people from doing such things, then most people won't do them. There will, of course, be exceptions, where people break the law, and will then, subsequently, be punished. Whilst none of this is desirable, it seems to be simply a by-product of having mobile phones with video cameras, which, has many advantages for people who use it correctly.

Similarly, I wasn't all that upset about the notion of people working at airports using body image scanners “that affectively strip you naked” sending images of those they found attractive to their friends. Again, it isn’t desirable, but a quick fix seems fairly simple. Make it illegal for those who work at the scanners to share images with anyone. As for whether or not this technology should be in use at all, this is something we need to think about a little. Just as the case is when thinking about mobile phones that can capture video footage, we need to weigh up the pros and cons. The pro, assumedly, is that our planes are at significantly less risk of being attacked than they would be if we didn’t have this technology, as it allows authorities the ability to see if anyone is carrying a weapon, or anything that may harm others. The con here is clearly that those operating the body scanners can see more of our bodies than we might hope. Though, if we imagine these workers to be trusted authorities, this would seem far less of a problem. The reason that we trust doctors will react appropriately when seeing our bodies, but then we have less trust for those who work at the airport, seems due to our perception of who these people are. Whilst doctors are authorities we can trust, who, on the most part, abide by the doctor-patient confidentiality agreement, those working on the body image scanners, at this stage, have no strict guidelines as to what is and isn’t acceptable, in regards to the way they handle images of our bodies. If the Law Reform Commission look into whether these body image scanners are really necessary, and find that they are, then they should simply give those who operate the scanners a set of rules to go by. These rules should clearly indicate that it is unacceptable to share these images with others. One trustworthy person seeing me semi-naked doesn’t bother me all that much. An image of me semi-naked doing the rounds without my knowledge, does bother me. As the Law Reform Commission states, when looking at many of these issues, we simply need to use “common sense”.

What bothered me within this article was the way technology was being used without the public's knowledge for a higher power that we are not aware of. Myki was one example of this, another was Google Earth, and Street View, which put pictures on the internet of just about every house and street in Australia. Not keen on that at all. Why wasn't I consulted before pictures of my house were put on the internet? Whilst these images being online has no immediate impact on my life, I find it un-nerving that organisations of people who I don't know, and can't see or speak to, are putting my personal information online, for the whole world to see. The same goes for automatic number-plate technology, which seems unnecessary, unless you're trying to know where everybody is, all the time, which, in itself, is pretty creepy.

So why is it that some of these problems worry me more than others? I believe it's largely because with devices such as Myki, number-plate technology, and Google Earth, and Street View, I am not convinced that the pros of these technologies outweigh the cons. In these three cases, people get to know where I am or look at my house, but where's the benefit for me? These issues affect everyone, and haven't been discussed with anyone.

Here is where I draw the line: these devices that have been designed for personal use are completely acceptable. As long as we act respectfully towards others, and police ourselves, so that we don't invade others privacy using these technologies, most people will simply enjoy the benefits of being able to take videos on their phones, or of sharing photos. As this technology is relatively new, we are yet to fully establish a moral framework which dictates how we should use these technologies respectfully. Once we do, however, most people will take note, and the problems caused by these technologies will be far outweighed by the benefits. The same goes for those using "body image scanners" at airports. As long as they are identifiable, and held responsible for their use of these machines, I believe that by and large, these powers will not be abused.

Devices that have NOT been designed for personal use, but rather for commercial, or private use by large organisations, where the public have no idea who is controlling them, are unacceptable, as far as I'm concerned. As the general public cannot directly speak with those who are running these devices, these people generally need not answer any questions about the invasion of people's privacy, or what these devices are really being used for. Where is this information going?

I believe that technological devices that have been designed for personal use, are no great concern, as each individual can dictate how they want to use it. People generally understand that there are ways of using these types of technology that are acceptable and unacceptable. Again, common-sense is required. I will not take video footage of anyone on the toilet, as I wouldn't want anyone taking video footage of me on the toilet. It's pretty simple stuff. It is the technologies which can monitor many people's behaviour that are of concern to me, particularly as there is little I can do to prevent it. I am glad that the "Law Reform Commission" are aiming to prevent these devices from being abused. It's nice to know that at least one powerful organisation is on my side.

Works cited:

Dowling, Jason, and Austin, Paul, 13/8/2010, Mobiles a 'threat' to privacy, Available at The Age online,
Last accessed: 6/11/2010

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Technological determinism

The term "technological determinism" refers to the concept of the world changing as a result of technology, rather than technology advancing to suit the world's needs. I believe that technological determinism is a scary idea, as it suggests that our lives are likely to change as a result of factors outside our control. This also implies a lack of freedom and choice within our lives. (Winston, 1990)

I believe that much of the animosity directed towards social networking websites comes out of fear of "technological determinism". Social networking sites have been accused of "taking over our lives", a phrase which suggests that our own control of our lives is being compromised. (Bloomfield, 2009)My position in regards to social networking websites is as follows: These websites provide a service where people can inter-act with friends, family, colleagues, and any other acquaintances, in any way they see fit. There are limitations of sorts in that websites such as Facebook have a layout which directs users to use the page in a certain way, but there are no directions from those running the websites on when or where users should use Facebook. This differs from a medium such as television, where users have much less influence on the way the medium is used.

Television, like radio, is programmed to function in only one way. If you aren't listening, or watching, when the show you want to view is on, then you miss it. Since the introduction of television, devices have been created which allow us to record programs, such as VHS recorders, and more recently, DVD recorders. However, despite the introduction of devices such as these, which allow us to record programs that we can then watch again later, we still have similar problems. If I forget to watch, say, Packed to the Rafters, I'm just as likely to forget to record it. The television medium is continuing to play around with this problem, so that people are able to watch the programs they want whenever it suits them. Foxtel IQ for example, records programs that it feels you might enjoy, based on information you have given it, eg. I barrack for Essendon, so it would probably record every football game that Essendon is involved in, without me having to remind it to do so. Despite these new forms of media, such as Foxtel IQ, which allow us a greater amount of control in determining the manner in which we watch television, by and large, television remains a medium which dictates terms to it's viewers.

This is particularly clear when we look at "event television" for examples. The AFL grand final is televised live each year, and is always watched by millions of Australians. Whilst many would record the  grand final, the vast majority watch it live, simply because they want to see the action as it is unfolding. Television programs such as Masterchef, and The Biggest Loser, have been able to create a similar appeal for the finales of their shows. Whilst the finales for Masterchef and The Biggest Loser are pre-recorded, seeing as these "events" are only seen on television, it almost seems as though they are live, and viewers tune in so that they know who the winner is as soon as it is announced. Creating "events" on television such as these helps the TV networks in a number of ways. First of all, reality television is generally quite cheap to make; there is no need to hire actors, and most of the action occurs in the same settings. More importantly, having a mass audience tune in so that they are all watching at a particular moment means that advertising space becomes more valuable. It isn't all that important to look at why these programs are constructed in these ways. What's important is that despite advances in technology, such as recording devices, Foxtel IQ, and every other creation that aims to allow audiences to watch television on their own terms, there are still many cases where we watch television the way television networks want us to. If the Masterchef finale is on at 7 30 pm, most of us will make sure that we are at home, and near a working television tuned to channel 10, at 7 30 pm.

In my opinion, this shows that, to a small degree, television has an influence on the way we live our lives. While TV networks play shows that are capable of getting big ratings at times when most people can watch, such as Sunday nights, which was when Masterchef, Australian Idol, Big Brother and The Biggest Loser all had their finales screened, those that have an interest in these programs avoid making any other plans for that Sunday night. By dedicating an allocated time to watch television, this is, in a small way, influencing the way we live our lives. If I felt like going over the top, I could say that television has "taken over our lives" because it gives us something we don't want to miss out on, and we take time out of our lives to view it. I wouldn't say this though, because it's silly. Regardless, I couldn't say the same thing about social networking websites, such as Facebook.

With a site like Facebook, if someone leaves you a message, and you go away for a week, it will still be there when you come back. Facebook does not give us directions on when or where to use Facebook. The closest thing it does to this is suggest friends we could re-connect with and people we may know. If we ignore these prompts, there are no consequences whatsoever. The point I am trying to make is this: Social networking sites are run on the terms of it's users, not by those at the top of the pile, who run the websites. In fact, it is this freedom, to use these websites whenever and however people want, which is the reason for their success. Many people go on Facebook a lot. But this is because it is very easy to get access to Facebook. If I'm stuck in an elevator, I can't watch TV, but I probably can go on Facebook, either on my phone, or on my laptop. The same goes for many other situations. If I'm bored at work, stuck in a waiting room at the doctor's office, bored at uni, waiting for a train, bored at a conference about global warming, watching television is not an option, and if it was, the best thing on Tv would probably be The Bold and the Beautiful. Going on Facebook, however, is an option, and due to the website's nature, it is constantly being updated with fresh information. The more people contribute, the more interesting the website gets. As the website becomes more interesting, people tend to visit it more often, and in doing so, contribute more interesting information, creating a snowball effect. This is why some people spend a lot of time on Facebook. Social networking websites are perhaps the easiest media form to get a hold of, and we can use them any way we choose to. Although social networking websites take up some of our time, it is only the time that we choose to give it, and as such, these websites themselves cannot be blamed if users spend too much time on them. After all, the user dictates the terms on which they will use these websites, so the responsibility to use these websites in a healthy way falls upon the user.

"Technological determinism" refers to technology controlling the way the world progresses. Though social networking websites have influenced our day-to-day lives, they have done so by providing a versatile media form where users determine how these websites will be used. (Winston, 1990) This is the exact opposite of "technological determinism", as these websites allow us a new way of connecting with other people, which is one of our current culture's most valuable commodities. It is this "need", to connect with other people, that social networking websites are addressing, just as the invention of a fridge addressed the need to keep food from going off or the need to keep food and drinks cold. Social networking sites solve several contemporary problems. These include, but are not restricted to; providing a media form that is constantly updated and there to be used whenever we want to use it, a means of interacting with many people at once, and staying in touch with other people, and a temporary cure of boredom. No-one need worry about these websites taking over our lives. Each individual can use them as much, or as little as they want. Those who don't want to use them at all don't need to. I, however, am going to check my Facebook now, as I feel I've made my point and this post can finally end. If I take too long to write my next post, please, hold me responsible, not Facebook.

Works cited:

Bloomfield, Ruth, 2nd May 2009, How Facebook has changed us into a nation of introverts by taking over our lives, Available at ‘The Daily Mail’ online:
Accessed: 8/11/2010

Winston, Brian, 1990, How are Media Born? Available online:
Accessed: 8/11/2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Trust is an essential component of any successful community. For example, when I venture out of my house each morning, I trust that I won't be attacked or harassed by others. This trust allows me to function healthily, and go about my business without worrying about any possible repercussions that could come about as a result of me leaving the house. 

Social networking websites have essentially created an interactive online community, which also requires a level of trust from it's users in order to function healthily. If users of social networking sites worried endlessly about the possible negative implications that could arise from using any of these websites, there would be a reluctance to share information or opinions with others. This would result in less interaction on these websites, which, eventually, would most likely lead to the death of social networking websites. As long as a level of trust remains, however, these websites will continue to grow in stature.

Writing this blog I trust that my thoughts and opinions will be treated with respect by those that read this. I trust that those in charge of social networking websites will not give out any personal information I may have needed to provide to start this blog. I trust that people who read this won't use this blog to gain information which could aid them in robbing my house. Basically, I trust that there's nothing to worry about, even though it's conceivable that something could go wrong, as a result of me writing this blog. This allows me to say whatever I want, and interact with others online in any way I feel comfortable. 

It seems that many others share my tendency to trust social networking websites, as just about everyone I know, grandparents aside, has a Facebook page. This trust towards the internet hasn't always existed though. Rachel Hills wrote in an article in The Age that "Back in the late 90s, the internet was seen as a mire of pedophiles and potential stalkers". Hills remembers her reluctance to give away any personal information whatsoever during that period, then points out that "Ten years later, the online world is a very different place". (Hills, 2007) Similarly, I can remember being told a cautionary tale in primary school, about someone who told an online pen-pal that they had got a great new TV, only to have it stolen from their house weeks later. The message was clear; "Don't tell anybody anything personal!"

But the times, they are a-changin'. (I don't need to cite Bob Dylan as a reference do I?) 

Websites such as Facebook have flourished as a result of an increase in trust for social networking websites, and the internet in general. Information that was once with-held, is now being shared without a second thought, meaning that websites such as Facebook are being used much more frequently. For example, I have noticed that there is a trend to use Facebook as a means of inviting a group of people to a birthday party. It's easy to do; one only needs to "create an event", then select the friends they want to invite. Often, there is a message that comes with these invitations, saying something along the lines of "Send me your addresses, and I'll post you a proper invitation". It seems that for the most part, people have no problem writing down their address on the wall of the event, a place where everyone else who is invited can see it, and sometimes, if the event isn't classified as a private one, a place where anyone on Facebook could see it if they so chose to. This information, when combined with say, a status update about having a free-house, or another about going to work, would probably be enough to give my primary school teacher a hernia.

The same can be said about the "I like it" game on Facebook, which took place a few weeks ago, in an attempt to raise awareness about breast cancer. The game encouraged women to post where they like to keep their handbag. The idea was that people post things such as "I like it on the floor", or "I like it on the dinner table", so that those who read it find it shocking, then wonder why said woman has written such a seemingly inappropriate status update. They then find out that it's related to helping the breast cancer cause, which gets them talking about it to others, and perhaps even writing their own status updates. 

It amazed me that people had no qualms about telling all of their Facebook friends where they keep their handbag. Surely, that's just an invitation for burglars? Apparently not. The "I like it" game has come and gone, and I have heard no reports of a handbag-snatching epidemic. 

While many people have a tendency to over-share personal information on websites such as Facebook, for the most part, it isn't causing any negative repercussions. I believe that since the era I referred to earlier, (which Rachel Hill's wrote about, with the internet being thought of as full of pedophiles and what-not) users of social networking websites have slowly shared more and more information, and have seen that generally, no harm comes from it. As a result of this, people continue to push the boundaries of sharing information with others. 

Of course there are many negative stories regarding experiences with social networking sites, such as people who have written things on Facebook such as "Faking a sicky today!", then subsequently been fired from their job the next day. These stories remind everyone to be careful, but generally speaking, they don't have a huge influence on people's online lives. In the meantime, those that use social networking sites will continue to share more and more personal information, like a child pulling back an elastic band. It will be an interesting day when that elastic band is eventually released, or snaps, and as a society, we have to rethink our attitudes towards our online lives. Until that day, however, trust will continue to grow, and people will continually share more information that they perhaps shouldn't. In the meantime, we should enjoy the trust that exists for the online community, which encourages interaction, creativity, and allows us to express whatever we please. No-one knows when the elastic band might snap. Enjoy my blog while you can.

Works cited:
Hills, Rachel, 12/8/2007 "In Myspace, everyone can see you preen", The Age
Available: [online]
Accessed: 21/10/2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I like it on the internet

One of the major focuses for this subject is to look at the following question; How have social networking sites affected our thoughts regarding the concepts of privacy and trust within our community?

One school of thought is that with social networking sites growing in popularity rapidly, we have increasingly less privacy than we had before.

Privacy = Good
Social Networking = Less Privacy
Therefore: Social Networking = Bad

This is probably a fairly logical position to take. It follows the line of thinking that the more we put on the internet, the more others know about us, and as such, the less privacy we have. Sure.

I, myself, tend to think that social networking sites aren't that big a deal, which probably isn't a view shared with many others in this subject, as, well, if it's not a big deal, then why pick the subject? Regardless, I believe that even though the rise of social networking has led there to be more information about myself in a public forum than there would be otherwise, if, say, I didn't have the internet, most of what can be found out about me by looking at my Facebook page isn't really "private" information.

This all depends of course, on how we define the word "private", something we were asked to do in a class a few weeks ago. The way I see it, there are two ways of describing the word "private". The first is to regard the word "private" as being an antonym for the word "public". "Public" information is information that can be seen or used by anyone, regardless of whether or not they know me. Because of my Facebook page, there is more information about me for the "public" to look at. More "public" information equals less "private" information. So, by interpreting the word "private" in this way, yes, I would agree that Facebook has led me to have less "privacy".

However, I am not just interested in viewing the word "private" as an antonym for "public". I tend to think of the word "private" as a synonym for the word "personal". "Personal information" is information that I like to keep to myself. This is a very different definition. For example, those who haven't met me probably don't know that I have brown hair. Though because of Facebook, people who don't know me could probably find out what colour my hair was if they really wanted to. As my Facebook page is set so that only those who know me can see more than just my name and a photo, this is basically all they will see. This information would have been "private" in that only those who meet me in person would have it, if it weren't for Facebook, that is. "Private" information is, after all, information that can only be known by a certain group of people. In this case, the group is fairly wide; those who have met or seen me. In this sense, Facebook is responsible for this piece of "private" information regarding myself becoming "public", and as such, technically, I have less privacy.

Clearly,  in this example, it doesn't make much difference that the "public" forum now knows I have brown hair. But what does matter? If I was a criminal, and that became knowledge that was available for the public, that would have an impact on my life, but if I were a criminal, would I really allow that information to get put on Facebook?

What I'm getting at, is that generally, things we put on social networking sites such as Facebook don't have that much influence on the rest of our lives. If we put extremely personal things on Facebook, then it can have an influence, but even then, sometimes, it does not. Considering the fact that I, and those I trust, such as friends and family, are the only people capable of posting, or reading personal information on my Facebook page, I see no need to worry about the effects my constructed "public" persona may have on life in the real world. Hopefully my opinion in regards to this topic remains the same, and isn't influenced by some terrible unforeseen Facebook drama. At this stage, however, I find it difficult to see what could really go wrong.