Amsterdam Center for Social Media

Is Privacy a Thing of the Past?

Jeana Frost

Revelations about the scope of the US government’s National Security Agency’s electronic surveillance programs suggest that privacy is a quaint and outdated concept. Yet, backlash against violations of privacy online indicate that people still value privacy and see it as worth defending.

This has reignited the discussions about privacy and confidentiality and also questions about how people approach data sharing online. Early work on privacy and the Internet suggested a discrepancy between stated privacy concerns and online behavior, a phenomenon known as the “privacy paradox” (Barnes, 2006). While people declare themselves concerned about privacy, they still post personal data online and are surprised when unintended audiences find this information. In essence, users unintentionally and routinely reveal information that they did not in fact want to share.

Recent studies on Facebook and privacy suggest that users are becoming more sophisticated, but selectively so. In Sonja Utz’s study (2009), she found that university students concerned with privacy are more likely to change privacy settings. In recent work by Young and Quan-Haase, they find that respondents are more concerned about social uses of their online profiles, which friends and family can access accounts, than the institutional uses of data, how social media sites themselves share the data. The majority of respondents controlled who could view their profiles and the photos they posted on their walls, limiting access to their Facebook friends, but only one respondent mentioned concern about how Facebook, as a company, uses the data (Young and Quan-Haase, 2013).

All of this raises larger questions about what the effects of social media technology on the value we place on privacy. Some studies suggest that Facebook promotes narcissistic behaviors (e.g. Carpenter 2012), with the implication that users’ need for admiration sidelines privacy concerns. Another study suggests a more nuanced relationship, finding that rather than changing behavior, Facebook simply attracts those less concerned with privacy. What others perceive as narcissism is the increasing trend towards openness in the digital age (McKinny, Kelly and Duran 2012). What seem clear from recent research in psychology is that younger people exhibit much higher levels of narcissism, and that self-promotion through social media is implicated in this generational shift (APA, 2011).

Social media is still a new phenomenon. But research suggests that user attitudes change as uses of data become common. Despite our collective concerns about privacy, have we come to think of privacy as a thing of the past?

American Pyschological Association (APA). Reflecting on narcissism: Are young people more self-obsessed than ever before? Online at http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/02/narcissism.aspx

Barnes, S. B. (2006). A privacy paradox: Social networking in the United States. First Monday, 11(9), 11-15.

Carpenter, C (2012). Narcissism on Facebook: Self-promotional and Anti-social Behavior,” Personality and Individual Differences, 52(4), 482-486

McKinny, B, L. Kelly and R. Duran. Narcissism or Openness?: College Students’ Use of Facebook and Twitter. Communication Research Reports 29(2), 108-

Utz, S., & Krämer, N. (2009). The privacy paradox on social network sites revisited: The role of individual characteristics and group norms.Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 3(2), 2

Young, A. L., & Quan-Haase, A. (2013). PRIVACY PROTECTION STRATEGIES ON FACEBOOK: The Internet privacy paradox revisited. Information, Communication & Society, 16(4), 479-500.


Does Facebook stop us from singing to ourselves when we are alone?

Camiel Beukeboom picture article

Camiel Beukeboom

The availability of social contacts is enormously important for people. We have a fundamental need to connect and interact with others. A lack of satisfactory social contacts has been shown to result in reduced psychological well-being and even in reduced physical health (Cohen, 2004). Yet, genuine social interaction is not always present. What do we do when we are alone or feel lonely?

Interestingly, research has shown that when social interaction is lacking, individuals seek out activities that can act as a substitute or reminder of social connections. Such activities have been called “social snacking” (Gardner et al., 2005). Social snacking reminds us of having an active social live when not immersed in it at that time, and appears to ameliorate some of the negative effects of feeling alone (Twenge et al., 2007). When individuals lack social interaction they may, for instance, look at photographs of loved ones, or anthropomorphize and talk to Read the rest of this entry »


Social media and international communication research


by Peter Kerkhof

Next week many of the ACSM academic staff will leave for the annual conference of the International Communication Association (ICA), this year conveniently (for Europeans hating long flights) located in London. ICA is the international association of communication scholars, and for many of us the ICA annual conference is the most important venue to present and discuss our research findings. This year attendance is at a record high, and so was the number of rejections: almost two third of submissions was rejected. Still, at the conference over 2300 papers will be presented by over 3500 authors, among whom 36 from VU University Amsterdam.

I’ve had a look at the social media related papers that will be presented at ICA (you can find a list of all presentations in the ICA programme guide (pdf)). Over 180 presentation and session titles (8% of all papers) mention words like social media (76x), Facebook (30x), Twitter (35x), blogs (25x) and YouTube (10x).

What do communication scholars study when they study social media? First, research on social media is present in virtually all possible domains of communication science. ICA has 25 divisions and interest groups (e.g., organizational communication, mass communication, information systems, communication and technology, public relations, health communication, interpersonal communication, etc.), and most of these divisions host social media related Read the rest of this entry »


Wat ik nog zou willen leren in mijn leven

Door Tessa van Charldorp


here it isEen grote online reisorganisatie plaatst een wiskundepuzzel op haar Facebookpagina. Het betreft een driehoek waarvan twee zijden bekend zijn (4cm en 3cm) en bij de derde zijde een ‘x’ staat. Een type som die de meeste van ons tijdens onze schooljaren wel eens op hebben moeten lossen. De  stelling van Pythagoras moet worden toegepast om erachter te komen hoeveel centimeter x is. De grap van het plaatje is dat de ‘x’ is omcirkeld door vermoedelijk een leerling die erbij heeft geschreven ‘ Here it is.’ De juffrouw of meester heeft er met een rode pen een kruis bijgeschreven. Helaas, de leerling heeft de vraag fout beantwoord en krijgt 0 punten. X letterlijk ‘vinden’ was niet de vraag, de leerling had de som moeten uitrekenen. Deze reisorganisatie gebruikt de wiskundepuzzel om haar Facebookfans te vragen: “Wat zou jij graag nog willen leren in je leven?”

Als we kijken naar de 83 reacties zien we 57 fans die de rekentaak op zich hebben genomen. Wat blijkt, mensen lossen graag puzzels op en delen graag hun juiste antwoord, ook al hebben 56 voorgangers het juiste antwoord ook al gegeven. Sommige fans doen dit op een redelijk Read the rest of this entry »


June 2013
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