Public or Private?

Imagine talking with your friends – all the usual banter. Then an adult comes along. There is usually an abrupt silence, then the talk starts again. But the genre is completely different. How you speak, what you say, the vocabulary used – all completely different. Most people talk to their Granny differently to their friends. The problem with social media is that you could be doing both at once. There is a huge challenge in deciding how to present yourself – either your Granny is shocked or your friends start to wonder about you. This is what sociologists call ‘collapsed contexts’ and it is definitely something that the previous generation did not have to deal with.

They also dealt with a very different world in terms of privacy. Most adult organisations have a ‘publicity committee’. For that matter many student societies did. It was assumed things were private until you actively made them public. Now, it is better to assume things are public unless you take action to make them private. The ‘In Private Browsing’ setting in Explorer tells us, simply by the use of language, that other browsing in ‘public’. This public / private pendulum has definitely swung and it means some careful thought about how you live in a world which is public by default and only private with effort.

Danah Boyd covers much more on this in her book ‘It’s Complicated’