Social norms and privacy concerns often twisted in the world of social media

While social media sites have been sweeping the nation, the old-school notion of privacy is still one that should not be forgotten.

Alejandro Gutierrez, doctoral student, has been doing research regarding privacy as applied to social media sites. He has created a metaphor for the social media sites that exist today.

“Like a person looking through window, people tend to do that with social networks,” Gutierrez said. “People can still peek through windows and see pictures and wall posts. It’s like going up to someone’s front porch, but there is no Facebook police to stop them.”

While there are many positive aspects to be taken from sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, there are also downsides from each that ought to be taken into account. Because of this, privacy is crucial, Gutierrez said.

“In the case of Facebook, there is a defined set of privacy settings that they recommend users to use,” Gutierrez said. “It is up to the user to revive the settings and update them.”

Gutierrez also points out that Facebook allows users to twist social interactions as they may.

“When you add your mom on Facebook, she is supposed to be one of the closest people in your life, but some users don’t want her to see this part of their lives,” Gutierrez said.

While some people take the extra step to block certain parts of their accounts, protection still includes some grey areas.

“Not a lot of people think about what happens to all of the data they put on the social media sites,” said Matt Crain, Ph.D. candidate and media studies teacher. “Users are required to sign a privacy license when they join Facebook, and people don’t usually read that. Facebook periodically makes changes to this license as well.”

Facebook has been criticized for having too complex of privacy settings, and as a result they have recently being trying to simplify these settings for their users, Crain said.

“There is privacy to an extent where people can and can’t see things, but you can never tell Facebook itself not to use its content for other purposes like advertising,” Crain said.

Denis Walsh, sophomore in Engineering, said that as a Facebook and Twitter user, he does pay attention to the site’s privacy settings.

“I have my privacy set to the normal setting,” Walsh said. “I think the biggest repercussion of not protecting your account is that there could be people you don’t know knowing way too much about you.”

Gutierrez strongly emphasizes the fact that this privacy issue is something that people should take very seriously.

“While there are many notable positive aspects with social media, some of the drawbacks are that they may impact productivity in life activities as well as people may be posting pictures and things that you might not want others to see,” Gutierrez said. “This can be avoided if people use privacy settings accordingly.”

Facebook is so widespread and there are not many other sites that can compete, so Crain noted that it is difficult to not be a part of it.

“I am on Facebook as it is hard not to be,” Crain said. “There is a lot of social pressure to be on there and Facebook has a lot of power in the market.”

Despite Facebook’s popularity, users should always be concerned about their activity on the site and aware of their paths they create on the Web.

“I want to raise awareness of the users and create a sense of responsibility with these sites,” Gutierrez said. “Be the same way you would interact in society and be careful. Users need to think before posting.”