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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Online Identity: It's Your Choice

Well, well, well... so much for posting about this two weeks ago and so much for this series. June has come and gone way too fast. However, as promised I wanted to talk about how I believe personal Internet identity is all about choice and how Facebook is not bringing the downfall of marriages, employment, and digression. Wow, a pretty hefty task... I'm not sure I'm up to this right now.

I get really tired of people thinking that everyone else controls their online identity. They live in fear that an embarrassing picture of them is going to be posted online. I've actually heard of people who choose to withdraw from real world engagements because they fear that their actions will be broadcast online. The thought of their digital identity being tainted by someone else scares them to death.

To put it nicely these people are ignorant (wait... was that nice?).

Now before you respond by saying it's unfair that my actions in the digital sphere can affect those in reality and that I have no control over what other people post about me online let me proclaim fervently that you are in control of your image. You have two choices.

One: don't do anything you wouldn't want to be posted online. This does not mean that you do not attend social functions. It means that if you do not want people to see that embarrassing picture of you drunk at last night's party then don't get drunk at last nights party (or at least make sure no one takes a picture).

Two: Facebook has a handy button below everything tagged with you in it "Remove Tag". You can also ban certain people from tagging you in photos or outright ban everyone all at once. You can set it so only certain people can see your photos, statuses, posts, etc. Or you can even say that certain people can only see specific posts. Therefore ensuring that your grandmother won't know about anything that you won't want her knowing.

Ultimately you are in control of what information is available to you online. If you don't want it there don't allow it to be posted, or better yet, don't compromise your image by participating in activities contrary to what others think about you. It takes effort, time, and a quick click of the finger sometimes, but it is possible. 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Facebook and Privacy

I was talking to my wife earlier this week about our style of parenting for a paper that she wrote. We don't have any kids at the moment so it involved a lot of hypothetical situations and discussion about worst-case scenarios and a lot of tangents. One of these tangents was about a seminary lesson I had my junior year of High School. My teacher told us about "the privacy of a public place". Now this lesson was in relation to having intimate conversations while removing temptation, but it got me thinking about privacy on the Internet, especially Facebook.

The Internet is perhaps the most private public place (Or is it the most public private place?) available for the general populous today. There have been many cases of people posting private pictures online only to face real life repercussions from these images. Perhaps the most infamous of these situations was when Stacey Snyder was denied a teaching certificate when she posted a picture of herself titled "Drunken Pirate" on her Myspace page. What role does privacy play online?

Facebook has some of the most intricate privacy controls available on a social network. Every aspect of your profile page can be monitored to the point that one can assign individuals that can view (or not view) content on his or her page. However, Facebook has not always handled privacy issues with the most grace. In 2009 the launched a new privacy policy that set all users privacy settings so everyone could see everything by default. In 2006 there were protests when Facebook launched the newsfeed, and everything you did was published on one page. However, both of these incidents were handled appropriately. The news feed was left alone and people accepted it. The privacy policy rollout was apologized for and users were notified of the change.

This week there was a change in Facebook that caused quite a stir. They released a photo recognition feature to facilitate tagging in photos world wide (the service has been available in the US since January. Again, I will admit, Facebook stumbled on its release, setting everyone to allow this feature to tag pictures of themselves (except incidentally those that did not allow themselves to be tagged in any photo). The question of the day, however, is it a stumble? Why would Mark and the rest of the Facebook team want this to be an automatic feature? It couldn't possible be because it is useful and kind of awesome. It's like the Newsfeed. People got scared of the easy access of the information. In other words, they are scared of the public nature of the private place.

People want to be in control of their online identities. They want to be able to prohibit anyone from being able to disagree with them or post a semi-scandalous image of them. For good reason too. There are the Stacey Snyders in the world. There is a solution, one that I will talk about more next week: the need to constantly monitor your online identity. You decide what stays and what goes.

What are your thoughts on privacy online?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Facebook Friday: My Facebook Identity

So, I make it a habit to explore Facebook's privacy and account settings every few months and today I discovered something fantastic. You can download all of the content that you've posted on Facebook... ever. This means that all of those mobile pictures that you sent to facebook on your old phone can be downloaded easily to your computer in a matter of minutes. To do this simply go to Account Settings and click the button "Download Your Information". Let me tell you, its a riot. I've spent the better part of the evening going through ALL of my wall posts. Ever (except for some reason relationship statuses are not on there... odd... I guess the people at Facebook figure you don't want to remember all of the breakups you've had). Anyway, as I was reading through this history I noticed a shift in how I presented myself online.

(First Wall Post)
N. M. No one has been on your wall? Well I'll be the first then. And if I'm not the first just act like I'm the first one k? So I thought of you today cause I just got done reading one EXCITING chapter of BIO! I saw a picture of a flagella and IMMEDIATELY thought of u! haha..Aww pearson I miss ya buddy! How's school going for you so far?
September 2, 2006 at 6:18 pm

(First Status)
David Pearson is falling asleep...
September 7, 2006 at 11:05 am

(Favorite Wall Post)
S. N. DAVID! Just a friendly note to remind you not to kill youself, burn down a forest or have a friendly rondez-vous with a moose. 

P.S You are your roommates are NUTS!

November 8, 2006 at 4:16 pm

After perusing through my first year on Facebook I remembered how much I used to write notes. I had just come from Myspace and loved the note taking feature there. It seems strange that I never use that feature anymore. I guess its because I have a blog now... yeah, that's it. However, without this tool the medium changed. Facebook became a place, not to inform others of my thoughts and feelings, but rather a place to present an image of myself. It became, like Zuckerberg often describes Facebook, a "utility" for personal expression.

Anyway, time rolled on and I went on my mission. To Facebook I was pretty much dead. The only activity was a couple of photos tagged, a ton of birthday posts, and about a billion friend requests. Then...

David Pearsonis home.
July 8, 2009 at 5:31 pm 

While I was gone Facebook changed dramatically. They took the "is" off of statuses. It became a platform. They made the wall more conversational, so there are significantly less wall posts. These changes in the medium changed the message that I presented online. I monitored the content on my wall. I changed my privacy settings. It gets sparce from here. I had developed a filter on what content I published on Facebook for a couple of reasons. One, I was older, more responsible, and thought more about my e-identity. Two, Facebook opened to the public while I was gone. My parents were my friends. My Bishop was my friend. I saw that what I posted online directly impacted my real life. It was no longer a different person. The two worlds merged. 

Anyway, I came back to BYU and became a Media Arts major. I quickly realized that making films was not for me.

David Pearson uploaded a video to YouTube.
This is the short film that I made for my media arts application. It didn't turn out of cool as I wanted, but it still looks good.
 November 3, 2009 at 9:59 pm

David Pearson never knew what the weeding out process was until he started classes this semester.
January 8, 2010 at 6:15 pm

David Pearson is grateful for digital editting. Although it still took him 6+ hours to edit 4 and a half minutes of film.
February 4, 2010 at 5:12 pm

During that time I started dating the woman that would later turn into my wife. I'm going to digress and show of some of the clever statuses from this time of my life.

David Pearson Thanks J M for the great night!
January 23, 2010 at 2:30 am

David Pearson is lucky. Thought everyone should know.
February 11, 2010 at 1:10 am

David Pearson She said YES!
April 13, 2010 at 11:12 pm

David Pearson "Hold on, I'm still fontasizing." - J M while adjusting fonts for our announcements.
May 1, 2010 at 4:09 pm

David Pearson Announcements. Check. License. Check. Beautiful bride to be. Check.
July 1, 2010 at 12:00 pm

July 6, 2010 at 8:56 pm

Somewhere during that time I realized that I like people far to much to make films. I want to study them. However, I also love the media. That's when it hit me. Social Media. It is the perfect combination of Media/Man interaction. It allows me to focus on media while looking at how it impacts both individuals and cultures.


As I've thought about this post for almost three weeks I've realized that Zuckerberg is right. Facebook is a utility, not in the sense that it can help build a house or fix an engine (although I suppose it can). Rather it helps users communicate who they want to be. Zuckerberg once said that he wants there to be only one identity. There is not the person you are at work and the person you are at home and the person you are online. There is only one of you. This choice is not, however, just to present an accurate persona of yourself online. This choice is to use utilities and tools found online to shape the person you are offline. Facebook, and other social networks, allow people around the world to define who they want to be. This process has contributed to the democratization of the world in cultures' eyes. If a person is able to choose his or her identity then he or she can change the world around them. So yes, you only have one identity. However, it is up to us to decide on what it is. 

What has your experience with Facebook been? How has your Internet identity changed?