Privacy is an extremely important issue regarding participatory media. In this day in age, an online presence is almost essential, but for many, privacy concerns can inhibit online activity. I remember before I got a facebook, my parents argued against it, because they thought that every creeper in the world would be able to see my profile and cause harm. After great debate and attempted reassurance, my parents let me get a facebook. They were thankful to see how seriously privacy concerns were taken, as one could customize who sees nearly every aspect of their profile.
After awhile, my parents themselves became very interested in facebook, and they had me make them one in order to promote their band. It was ironic that my parents, who told me to not friend anyone I didn’t know, were friending people all over the place who they thought would like their music. I too use facebook to network and connect with people who have similar interests. I run the facebook page for my local political party, and sometimes I find myself adding random people in my neighboring counties to get to know them, before I send them the link to like the page that I run. Sometimes we sacrifice privacy for the sake of connecting, but I think when we have the choice to be able to do that, it is a wonderful thing, as opposed to if we had no privacy options at all.
For our Assignment #1 in Participatory Media, we had to observe an online community. The focus of my project was a facebook fan group for the band Alice in Chains, of which I have been a member since last August. The group is closed, and people can only join after receiving an invitation. One thing I noticed about that group, is that members never held back – they posted whatever they felt, no matter how silly, sexual, or obsessively fanatic it may have seemed. They understood the privacy they had in this group – that no one else except other Alice in Chains lovers would see it, and they felt safe when expressing themselves. Many of them had pseudonyms instead of real names, and pictures of the band members or album covers as their avatar instead of a photo of themselves. This may have provided the extra assurance they needed in order to be comfortable posting their true feelings. It bothers me when sites like Google, through Gmail or YouTube, request that we use our real names. Sometimes people want to have the security of a fake name if it means they can better express themselves.
As online media continues to progress, I’m sure privacy options will change as well. I know I am more apt to connect with more people, knowing that I am safe online, but I always hope that I will have options that protect me in my online life.