Lacking the Ability to Control our Online Identities

Although many people would agree that we dictate the content of our online profiles through the information that we reveal on our bios, the friends we add, and the statuses that we post, “Social Network Sites as Networked Publics” by danah boyd brings our attention to the reality that we do not have full rein on our online profiles, such as Facebook.

Putting aside technicalities, it is difficult and tedious to control and tailor our profiles to make them appropriate to all of our “friends” let alone our secondary, unintended, and invisible audiences. We also cannot control the wall posts and pictures that we are tagged in, even though we can delete posts and ask the original poster to remove tags. If we have high privacy settings and require all tags to be approved, these pictures are still available on the Internet without our permission and can be traced back to us.

We also cannot always control who sees our profile and its contents. Even with high privacy settings, friends of friends can see our posts, tags, and pictures. Disabling this feature in a way defeats a major purpose of social networking– sharing our lives with an audience. Future employers also have access to our “private” information, which many of us forget.

The lack of social, spatial, and temporal boundaries make way for collapsed texts, which makes it easy for people, such as employers, to take information out of context. This can be detrimental in many ways as messages and comments can be misinterpreted in unintended ways. Anachronistic communication also contributes to this problem as conversations can be drawn out for extended periods of time, which makes it likely that the audience, intended or not, only sees pieces of an ongoing conversation, which can result in them “seeing the wrong things at the wrong time.”

Overall, this article brought my attention to the extent of which our friends and peers contribute to our overall digital identities. This combined with the blurring of the public and private makes it necessary for us to be hyper aware of potential contributors to our online identities, and conversely, think of the various groups of audiences of our social profiles so that we are not caught off guard in crucial moments, such as during our job hunt.