Renee Powers COMM 500 - Rojecki December 11, 2012

Compulsory Participation in Social Networking Sites: Exploring Why We Share We have become reliant on social media to prove our existence. We check in on Foursquare, review our favorite coffee spots on Yelp, connect with our friends on Facebook, take photos of our pets on Instagram, pin our wish lists on Pinterest, share our thoughts on Tumblr and Wordpress, and tell our followers what we are eating for lunch on Twitter. Subsequently, targeted advertisements follow our digital footprints and market products specifically catered to us as individuals. Beyond commercial interests, if an individual vaguely threatens the President of the United States through a status update, it is only a matter of time before law enforcement agents are knocking on his or her door. If we know that companies and our government are watching us, why are we so willing to share personal information online? Is this simply a new cultural moment of sharing or is it something more sinister?

A shift in social norms Pew Internet Research and American Life Project found that 66 percent of American adults use social networking sites (Smith, 2011). For the most part, users cite keeping in touch with family and friends, old and new, as the primary reasons for joining sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. A second Pew Internet study found that Facebook users have more close friends and receive more social support than most people (Hampton, et al., 2011), which suggests that social networking sites may enhance a user‘s quality of life. As more of our offline friends benefit from these sites, our

2 interpersonal connections become increasingly active online. When our friends join, we feel the need to join as well. In a study of how teenagers use social networking sites, danah boyd (2007) discusses the expected sociability of online spaces like MySpace. She finds that many teens feel compelled to join because their friends are all members of the site. For those who resist joining for political reasons (MySpace is owned by NewsCorp) or because they do not think it is ―cool,‖ boyd notes that many actually do maintain profiles but do not visit the site as often. To put it succinctly, she writes: ―Teens often turn to sites like MySpace for entertainment; social voyeurism passes time while providing insight into society at large‖ (boyd, 2007, p. 10). Not only do teens use these online spaces for socializing, but it is clear they also use them to learn about the world around them. As social networking sites like Facebook broaden their audiences beyond teenagers, the impetus to join our friends online becomes even stronger. But what is it about this moment that makes sharing personal information and connecting with our friends online so enticing? Michael Stefanone, Derek Lackaff, and Devan Rosen (2010) identify an increase in the popularity of reality television and a corresponding increase in social networking use. They suggest that social networking users take their cues from reality television in that these programs invite us to share. The goal is to become famous in our own circles through our mediated identities: ―The [social networking site] platform both enables and encourages activities traditionally associated with celebrity, such as the primacy of image and appearance in social interaction‖ (Stefanone et al., 2010, p. 513), much like when a celebrity appears on a talk show. The authors point out that reality television suggests

3 anyone can be a public celebrity. Social networking sites are the realization and reproduction of this notion. Therefore, because our friends are members of these social networks, we feel compelled to join. And because of our fascination with reality celebrities, we are inspired to share personal details of our life for the smallest resemblance of fame. Users need not be computer geniuses; social networking sites make connecting and sharing simple. Nancy Van House (2009) suggests that sharing on social networking is simply easy, and that is the primary motivation for willingly doing so. In her discussion of digital photo sharing, she reasons that individuals merely do not have time to sit through a slideshow of vacation pictures, thus they prefer to share the photos through image-based social networking sites like Flickr. Not only is sharing information simple, it is encouraged. Social networking sites advance excessive sharing through their technological design. In its update box, Twitter used to ask, ―What are you doing?‖ and now it asks, ―What‘s going on?‖ Facebook asks, ―What‘s on your mind?‖ All of our friends are answering these questions, sharing tidbits of their lives to feel a bit more like their favorite celebrities, and doing so with ease. Yet many wonder what is so compelling about sharing with your friends the contents of your dinner. Jose Van Dijck (2011) writes that social networking values the everyday: ―The value of textual communication in real time lies in an everyday routine that favours phatic rather than cognitive messages‖ (p. 340). Thus, it seems reasonable to conclude that we feel compelled to participate in social networking sites for the simple reason that they exist, are easy to access, and because our existing (offline) social networks participate as well. It is no wonder that we feel as though we do not exist unless we are

4 plugged in. As one teenager notes, ―If you‘re not on MySpace, you don‘t exist‖ (boyd, 2006, p. 1). Social networking use is characterized and determined by a number of factors. As I have shown, many users desire to keep in touch with friends and family, some use social media become their own celebrity, others recognize how easy it is to distribute digital photographs on social networks, and every user is encouraged to share. No longer is the internet the domain of geeks or computer nerds. With social networking technology literally in our pockets, connecting online is for everyone and for every reason. Social networking use has become nearly compulsory and omnipresent. We feel the need to participate because we fear being left out. We share because we see our friends share. In other words, ―In technologically mediated sociality, being seen by those we wish to be seen by, in ways we wish to be seen, and thereby engaging in identity expression, communication and impression management are central motivations‖ (Tufekci, 2008, p. 21). It is possible that the participatory culture cultivated by new media technologies points to a cultural moment of sharing. That would be the simple explanation. However, our friends are not the only ones reading our status updates and benefitting from our check-ins, likes, and connections. This ubiquitous sharing leads to an erosion of privacy on a grand and unprecedented scale. We must consider the states and corporations that gain from our seemingly compulsory sharing.

The popular press attempts to explain who is watching us Who is watching us? In short, everyone is. Our peers, our government, companies, and ourselves all keep tabs on our online activity. This is no secret, as the

5 following review of popular press articles illustrates. Social networking users who read the newspaper online or offline are aware of the omnipresent forces that keep watch over social networking sites. In addition to the (often vague and wordy) privacy policy notices distributed to all users, journalists are quick to cover the ever-changing issues surrounding social technology, particularly in regards to who sees our personal information and, sometimes, how they use that information. Good journalism surprises us, and this story is no different. Stephanie Clifford (2010) of The New York Times points out the astonishing range of commercial industries that use personal electronic data: The budgeting Web site Mint.com, for example, displays discount offers from cable companies or banks to users who reveal their personal financial data, including bank and credit card information. The clothing retailer Bluefly could send offers for sunglasses to consumers who disclose that they just bought a swimsuit. And location-based services like Foursquare and Gowalla ask users to volunteer their location in return for rewards like discounts on Pepsi drinks or Starbucks coffee (1). As this quote illustrates, not only are we opting into sharing personal information, we are allowing the mobile technology in our pockets to disclose data on our behalf. Popular internet radio company Pandora received a subpoena regarding its information-sharing practices on its mobile app. Their app was allegedly one among many that gathered demographic data of the smartphone user to sell to advertising networks (Efrati, Thurm, & Searcey, 2011).

6 In addition to mobile apps, social widgets on external websites, such as Facebook‘s ―like‖ button or Twitter‘s ―tweet‖ button on news websites or blogs, also contribute to data collection. For every external ―like‖ or ―tweet‖ button clicked, Facebook or Twitter tracks what websites its user visits. The Wall Street Journal reports that, of the 1000 most-visited websites, these buttons appear on up to 25 percent (Efrati, 2011). As it is reported in The Washington Post, the Federal Communication Commission reprimanded Google in 2010 for collecting sensitive personal data. In addition to taking photographs intended for its ―street view‖ feature on Google Maps, Google also gathered information about personal WiFi networks, email addresses, passwords, and web browsing history (Kang, 2010). Google, one of the largest corporations in the world, may seem altruistic, but the popular press often points out its true colors. In an interview with The New York Times, notable privacy scholar Alessandro Acquisti describes Google searches as follows: ―Every search on Google, Mr. Acquisti notes, is implicitly a transaction, involving a person ‗selling‘ personal information and ‗buying‘ search results‖ (Lohr, 2010, p. BU3). However, he continues, people simply do not conceive of internet searches in this way. Instead, we opt in to share information, especially on social networking sites. It is reasonable to assume that the more often users are prompted to share, the less thought users give to actually sharing their data. However, it is not just Google that stores users‘ data. Law enforcement agencies often request information from telecommunications companies. For example, according to Miguel Helft and Claire Cain Miller (2011) of The New York Times, Google received over 4000 of these requests from January to June in

7 2010 and Facebook received 10 to 20 each day in 2009. Even the United States Department of Justice has requested this kind of information, as it did with Twitter in the WikiLeaks scandal (Helft & Miller, 2011). Despite government‘s use of social networking data, there are efforts to reassure users‘ right to privacy. Though sharing personal information through social networks has been around since the early 2000s, it was only February of 2012 that the United States government developed an official position. In its report, officially entitled Consumer Data Privacy in a Networked World: A Framework for Protecting Privacy and Promoting Innovation in the Global Digital Economy, the White House explicates a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights and delineates the federal government‘s role in ensuring individual privacy rights. This document emphasizes transparency, contextual privacy, security, accuracy, and accountability. Yet the challenges to such a position continue, as reported in The Washington Post. As recently as November 2012, the Federal Trade Commission‘s efforts to ensure consumer privacy through the ―Do Not Track‖ initiative experienced setbacks. Though supported by the White House and privacy advocates, the advertising industry representatives on the committee have pushed back (Timberg, 2012). Instead of considering data gathering as an innocent activity, it is clear even to the popular press that social networking users need to reconsider these acts as acts of surveillance. However, the aforementioned tales from newspapers do not treat the issue with the seriousness it deserves. This is likely because many of these newspapers have commercial interests, too, and do not want to harm their own and their advertisers‘ relationships to social networked sites their access to targeted advertising. Therefore, it is imperative that we examine this issue critically.

8 Acts of surveillance As I mentioned above, data gathering must be reconsidered as an act of surveillance. There are several different types of surveillance we must consider, as they all relate to how corporations use the information we disclose and how social networking users determine what information to disclose. The types explicated here include institutional surveillance, interpersonal surveillance, and self-surveillance. As a reference, this analysis relies on Foucault‘s notion of the Panopticon1 to further examine the power inherent to surveillance activities. This is a kind of disciplinary inaction via surveillance; that is, order can be maintained through the threat of being observed instead of through physical exercises of power.

Institutional Surveillance I have identified two different kinds of institutional surveillance: state surveillance and corporate surveillance. Though useful for many reasons, the Foucauldian perspective of surveillance as internalized discipline may no longer apply to the state, as attention has shifted from disciplining specific populations such as prisoners to ―the control of whole groups, populations and environments – not community control, but the

The Panopticon is a central watchtower in a prison system. The prisoners can always be seen from the Panopticon but cannot tell when exactly they are being watched. Foucault (1975/1995) outlines the effect: …to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power. So to arrange things that the surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in its action; that the perfection of power should tend to render its actual exercise unnecessary; that this architectural apparatus should be a machine for creating and sustaining a power relation independent of the person who exercises it; in short, that the inmates should be caught up in a power situation of which they are themselves the bearers (p. 201).

9 control of communities‖ (Cohen, 1985, p. 127). This is achieved in a number of ways: through data collection for large-scale databases, such as fingerprinting and facial recognition technology, to the installation of security cameras and wiretapping devices. Government can instill self-surveillance attitudes through the rhetoric of readiness and patriotism, but it can also continue to monitor its citizens in a literal way. Though local officials have used security cameras as a technique for crime prevention since 1973, government-sponsored surveillance has ballooned in the years following the September 11 attacks. In order to prevent terrorist attacks, video recording technology has been installed and/or updated in public spaces (Yesil, 2006) and wiretapping devices became increasingly common (Fitsanakis, 2003). These technologies must also be considered in conjunction with social networking sites as sources of information. However, despite the ubiquity of surveillance technology and emergence of self-disclosure on social networking sites, law enforcement officials declare their concern for public safety and their purpose for watching out for the public, not just watching the public (Yesil, 2006, p. 401). The rhetoric of care, protection, and safety is a dominant theme. National security is clearly being used as leverage, however this occurs in the workplace, as well. Valerie Fournier (1999) describes this governance via surveillance in reference to disciplining company employees. She writes, ―[O]rganisations are urged to mobilise employees‘ potential for innovation and self-actualisation by relaxing rigid bureaucratic mechanisms of control and according employees more autonomy‖ (p. 291). However, in doing so, these organizations reinforce self-discipline through autonomous governance, otherwise known as corporate surveillance. Self-disciplined employees maintain corporate-defined professionalism through the internalized surveillance of a company.

10 Thus, the company maintains control by governing at a distance ―in the name of the client and the self‖ (p. 299), much the same way Foucault‘s Panoptical disciplines prisoners at a distance.

Interpersonal Surveillance Deemed social surveillance by some (Marwick, 2012) and lateral surveillance by others (Andrejevic, 2006b), interpersonal surveillance involves the anonymous monitoring of peers for the purpose of gathering personal data. Interpersonal surveillance involves the internalized responsibility individuals feel from an authority to watch over other individuals. An appropriate example of a type of benevolent social surveillance is the Neighborhood Watch program2. However, this monitoring of peers through interpersonal surveillance is not used in the sense of mutual watching, ―which implies transparent, reciprocal observation, but in the asymmetrical, nontransparent sense‖ (p. 397). In other words, interpersonal surveillance involves purposeful monitoring of private citizens by private citizens, sometimes for security reasons and sometimes for personal reasons. Through the proliferation of networked technology such as mobile devices and social networking sites, surveillance of one‘s peers has become much easier. ―Interpersonal interaction always contains an element of mutual monitoring, but the deployment of interactive networked communication technology allows individuals to avail themselves of the forms of asymmetrical, nontransparent information gathering


The Neighborhood Watch program may be effective when used appropriate, though we have seen through stories like the murdering of Trayvon Martin that this can be exploited (Robertson & Schwartz, 2012).

11 modeled by commercial and state surveillance practices‖ (Andrejevic, 2006b, p. 398). Technologies once used solely by the government have been co-opted by the private citizen. But interpersonal surveillance is not limited to high-tech monitoring devices. Interpersonal surveillance in the digital age ―…is characterized as surreptitious strategies individuals use over communication technologies to gain awareness of another user‘s offline and/or online behaviors‖ (Tokunaga, 2011, p. 706). Social networking sites, like Twitter, Foursquare, and Facebook in particular, facilitate a mild form of casual stalking. In fact, some users believe Facebook was created with this intention (Trottier, 2012) and anticipate some degree of monitoring (Marwick, 2012; Trottier, 2012). However, serious Facebook stalking mirrors real world stalking in a number of ways. Termed online obsessive relational intrusion, serious Facebook stalking can involve unwanted gifts or messages, anonymous monitoring, and following a user to virtual spaces (e.g. Facebook groups) or real-life locations (Chaulk & Jones, 2011). Individuals using others‘ information inappropriately can evolve into cyberstalking or domestic violence. The power differential is important to note, as interpersonal surveillance involves a nontransparent hierarchical display of power. The observer‘s goal is closeness whereas the goal of the observed is autonomy (Tokunaga, 2011). This power dynamic inherent to surveillance is exacerbated by the anonymous nature of the internet, ―…which allow[s] individuals to lurk in an environment that reduces the threat of being discovered‖ (p. 705). Thus, those seeking to take advantage of another individual can simply use data the potential victim self-discloses on a social networking site. However, many users recognize this threat and take measures to monitor themselves.


Self-Surveillance Self-surveillance is characterized by the internalization of the surveillance society. Our mediated selves perpetuate this; that is, the proliferation of image-capturing technology and social sharing invites us to watch and consider how we portray ourselves. This can affect how we understand a situation and perhaps how we will act in the future: ―The recorded behavior has power over the lived experience because exposure to the recorded behavior can replace or alter one‘s understanding of the event based on one‘s lived experience of it (Humphreys, 2011, p. 578). This differs from disciplinary surveillance and Foucault‘s panopticon in a key way: This surveillance is not thrust upon us. We willingly participate in the practice of self-monitoring (Humphreys, 2011). As the disciplinary institutions dissolve, surveillance is dispersed, creating a web of individuals who participate in self-discipline (Best, 2010) In this sense, surveillance is participatory, ―…perpetuated by the subjects of surveillance themselves‖ (p. 9). States can take advantage of this neoliberal notion of self-discipline and personal responsibility and exert silent, internalized power. Mark Andrejevic (2006a) points out that the Bush regime relied on individual citizens to prepare themselves for attack through practices such as becoming a good lie detector. Self-betterment and selfsurveillance under the guise of homeland security further contributes to a society of surveillance. As boyd (2007) mentions, social networking users often disclose information while considering the imagined audience. That is, they keep in mind those who may or may not be reading when they choose to update personal information online. Teenaged

13 users of MySpace also take social cues from their peers on the network and conform to socially sanctioned practices of disclosure. Therefore, we can understand this selfdisciplining as self-surveillance as well.

Internalized male gaze Self-surveillance can further be understood from a feminist perspective as the internalization of the male gaze. Coined by film theorist Laura Mulvey (1975/1999), the male gaze refers to the spectatorial position of the camera, which forces the audience to identify with a male protagonist. In other words, the cinematic apparatus takes the position of the male protagonist‘s point of view, particularly when focused on women. According to psychoanalysis, cinema takes advantage of our unconscious desires and replicates a dreamlike state. Therefore, this male gaze is voyeuristic, scopophilic, and controlling—all facets of patriarchal power. It transcends looking or monitoring into surveilling and manipulating. The woman on the screen becomes an erotic object for the characters in the film as well as for the audience, connoting what Mulvey describes as ―to-be-looked-at-ness.‖ That is, the woman (on screen and off) internalizes the male gaze and attempts to maintain patriarchal ideals of femininity through acts of self-surveillance. Foucault (1975/1995) also links the inspecting gaze beyond gender to brute power through his discussion of self-surveillance. Again, in regards to social networking sites, users discipline themselves according to what they witness other users doing: ―By looking at others‘ profiles, teens get a sense of what types of presentations are socially appropriate; others‘ profiles provide critical cues about what to present on their own profile‖ (boyd, 2007, p. 10). Self-presentation

14 decisions determined by perceived social norms in an online space can be considered self-surveillance as well. Because bodies are not present online, they must be written into being, and, in doing so, users write into being best versions of themselves for an imagined audience, determined by how a user understands he or she should be presented (boyd, 2007). The imagined audience‘s gaze is internalized for social networking users, much the same way the male gaze is often internalized by women. Therefore, though we are more inclined to share on social networks, we do so with others‘ opinions in mind. This does not necessarily contribute to a cultural moment of sharing, though whom users consider when self-monitoring is likely to be peers, not corporations. Herein lies the problem.

Surveillance and free labor in the name of capitalism While others watch users online, users insist on working for free. Philip Napoli (2010) examines the relationship between labor and social networking sites. He finds what is most remarkable about content produced on sites like YouTube and Facebook is ―the extent to which individuals engage in the production of media products absent any guarantee—or even expectation—of financial compensation‖ (p. 512). Instead of compensating the user/producer of the content, advertisers and corporations generate profit. So, in addition to unpaid labor in maintaining a positive mediated presence through self-surveillance, Marxist feminism may be extended to include free labor as negotiated by the corporations that run the social networking sites.

15 Interpersonal and institutional surveillance as labor Contributing to the reproduction of social hierarchies is the actual labor involved in creating internet content and policing it via interpersonal or self-surveillance. Napoli (2010) points out that new media ―…empowers the audience to serve as both receivers and senders of mass communication‖ (p. 511). In doing so, new media users effectively self-govern the content they produce. Because there is no international internet governing body, it is up to the users to determine codes of conduct. Maintaining these codes, in addition to producing content, essentially is free labor. Social networking sites like YouTube, Twitter, or Facebook make money from this labor via advertising. Corporations like these sell our self-disclosed personal information in order to generate specifically targeted advertisements. Therefore, the more a user shares, the more money these corporations make. This revenue is guaranteed but still necessitates a form of institutional (corporate) surveillance. Nicole Cohen (2008) illustrates this relationship succinctly: By providing a constant stream of content about the online activities and thoughts of people in one‘s social networks, Facebook taps into members‘ productivity through the act of surveillance… While these sites can offer participants entertainment and a way to socialize, the social relations present on a site like Facebook can obscure economic relations that reflect larger patterns of capitalist development in the digital age (p. 7). Surveillance in this sense is two-fold: Users keep an eye on the content and govern other users and themselves, all while corporations keep an eye on the content to see what kinds of self-disclosed information can be capitalized. Users‘ intentions for surveillance run the

16 gamut, but are likely to maintain social spaces and relationships, privacy, or reputation. However, corporations‘ intentions are not nearly as altruistic. As Cohen (2008) points out, corporate surveillance is used to make money, through selling our information to third-parties and by using our information to encourage us to return to the website, capitalizing on the power differential between users and corporations.

Marxist feminism Marxist feminism expands on this power differential between users and corporations and can further be applied to surveillance studies. Marxist feminism takes Marx‘s economic inequity a step further to include a sexual division of labor: Although there are some variations as to what labor each sex does, men generally have primary responsibility for subsistence activities; women‘s contribution to this varies. What does not vary is that, whatever else they do, women have primary responsibility for childcare and most of the everyday household work (Holmstrom, 1984, p. 463). Feminism recharacterizes labor as going beyond work for wages to include unpaid everyday labor within the home. However, Tong (2009) argues that women‘s work is not limited to child and household care. Women must also work to maintain their appearance. Thus, this sexual division of labor has several social consequences, most notably selfsurveillance: In the same way wageworkers may be alienated from the product(s) on which they work, women, viewed simply as women, may be alienated from the product(s) on which they typically work—their bodies…They most likely shape

17 and adorn their flesh primarily for the pleasure of men. Women do not have final or total say about when, where, how, or by whom their bodies will be used (Tong, 2009, p. 113). This indicates connections among capitalism, patriarchy, and self-surveillance, much like Mulvey‘s theory of the male gaze. Unbalanced monitoring simply adds to the highly stratified and hierarchical society: ―Surveillance contributes increasingly to the reproduction and reinforcing of social divisions‖ (Lyon, 2002, p. 242). This socialist, Marxist approach can also be applied to sharing personal information online. Cohen (2008) demonstrates how Facebook capitalizes on member activity for free labor. Disclosing information and connecting to friends can be considered work without wages. Cohen explains that Facebook‘s reliance on its users freely giving up personal information is immaterial labor that contributes to the corporation‘s existence in a capitalist market. Cohen‘s article was written prior to Facebook‘s IPO, which allows the company to be traded publicly, further exacerbating the issue of free labor. To examine the issue of work without wages as it relates to worker privacy more closely, Christian Fuchs (2012) applies a socialist conception of privacy in contrast to a liberal conception of privacy. He writes: The liberal conception of privacy (and its reality) as an individual right within capitalism protects the rich and their accumulation of more wealth from public knowledge. A socialist conception of privacy as a collective right of workers and consumers can protect humans from the misuse of their data by companies (p. 141).

18 This literature supports the capitalist notion of surveillance as it relates to the nearly compulsory participation in sharing personal information on social networking sites. Fuchs (2012) notes that much of the conversation focuses too closely on individual behaviors surrounding privacy, as is illustrated by the previous discussion of popular press stories. Clearly, the discourse needs to shift to consider ―societal contexts of information technologies‖ (Fuchs, 2012, p. 143), that is, the procedural rhetoric that disciplines how, what, why, and to whom we share, the impetus for sharing, and who benefits from our disclosure. Furthermore, social networking corporations like Facebook ought to be more forthcoming with how they use our data. We recognize the targeted advertisements, yet how they reach us is not a transparent process, and it should be. Transparency counters corporate surveillance, transferring power back to the user. Beyond the simple need for transparency, Fuchs (2012) argues for the decommodification of the internet and a socialist approach to privacy in order to combat this hypercommercialism and exploitation of users‘ content and information. However, this can only be achieved once social networks are designed in the users‘ best interests, not the corporations‘.

Procedural rhetoric as corporate persuasion The technologies of these social networks particularly are created in the corporations‘ best interests. That is, the corporation determines all the privacy settings, requests for information, and ways to connect with others. Ian Bogost (2007) refers to this kind of information disciplining as procedural rhetoric, which is the practice of using processes persuasively. In other words, there are elements of technology that are

19 inherently persuasive through the representation of procedures. Bogost states that computer procedurality is unique because it is the only representation that represents a process with another process. Thus, technology forms an argument through the implementation and execution of algorithms, behavioral rules, and programming. These procedures are fixed because they lack a human element, putting a great emphasis on ―the expressive capacity afforded by rules of execution‖ (Bogost, 2007, p. 5). Bogost (2007) gives the example that procedures involving humans can be change at will. That is, a customer may return an item past the window of time allotted for returns if another person decides to deviate from the procedure. This is not the case for technology, for it does not allow for exceptions. Though Bogost‘s discussion refers primarily to video games, it is particularly well suited for and relevant in the discussion of social networking sites, which are among the most procedural and most widely used of computer technologies. Procedural rhetoric helps explain how social networking processes are not as democratic as we would like to think. Indeed, we may complete our profiles with unique or even untrue information in order to play with our identities, as Sherry Turkle (1995) theorized in Life on the Screen. However, where we can supply our information, what kinds of relationships we can identify, and even what kinds of photographs we can supply3 are all determined and disciplined by the social networking site‘s inherent technology as decided upon by the corporation in an effort to generate more revenue. If there is a box to supply our telephone number, we are more likely to supply that


Facebook has a history of marking photographs of women breastfeeding as offensive and even shutting down the accounts of women who post such photographs (Conley, 2012).

20 information. If there is no way to limit the visibility of our profile information to strangers, we must take other precautions with our information. This exemplifies the procedural rhetoric of social networking sites as well as explicates the nature and extent of corporate surveillance within the social network itself.

Conclusion Despite all of the threats to our privacy and commodification of our personal information, social media users are still less concerned that their future employers or government are looking at their profiles than if their peers are looking (Tufekci, 2008). However, I have demonstrated that users absolutely should be concerned about whose best interests are served by our ubiquitous participation in social networking sites. Our participation on social media is not simply a cultural moment of sharing, rather corporations are capitalizing on our now-commodified relationships, self-disclosed information, and free labor all disciplined by the choices the technology itself affords. Furthermore, the networks these corporations run are inherently designed to produce specific information that can be used to generate revenue. Is specifically targeted advertising worth the disclosure of personal information? Or is it a kind of exploitative practice? While some users may consider corporations‘ use of our information a necessary evil, others likely do not consider the capitalist power inherent to social media participation. Popular press stories fail to explicate the power differential and money trail in social networks. Though the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights is a step in the right direction, we must continue to question what is the impetus behind the ubiquitous need to share our data, information, experiences, and relationships

21 in online social networks, and critically consider the actual audiences, not just the imagined one.

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