Facebook, Youth and Privacy in Networked Publics
Keywords:Privacy, Youth, Facebook, Social Network Sites
Media accounts would have us believe that today’s youth are a particularly narcissistic generation. Young adults are often portrayed as exhibitionists who share personal information excessively and only react if “burned” by experience. This paper reports results from 450 surveys of young adults on social network site usage and privacy and surveillance experiences--as well as from a historical archive dating back to 2006. The findings show a complex picture of a generation actively engaging visibility and social boundaries online through privacy and visibility practices. A striking increase in privacy protective activities is documented. I examine whether these changes are in response to personal negative experiences from online disclosure or if they derive from general awareness. I find that students are reacting pro-actively and adjusting their privacy settings above and beyond the impact of negative personal experiences. Contrary to media reports, young adults do not appear uncaring about privacy and are not waiting until they get burned. Significant racial and gender differences remain in privacy behaviors. Strikingly, about 20% report having deactivated their profile at least once.