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Nowadays, cyberspace has become a common virtual social environment where people interact and socialize on a daily basis. As social media platforms have become integrated into our everyday life, this has resulted an individual to share a huge amount of personal information online. This includes their personal profiles, photos, videos status updates and even their location. In fact, people tend to reveal more information of themselves on online platforms than they normally do in the offline world (Nguyen, Bin & Campbell, 2012).
With the existence of the cyberspace, this has made it easier for people to discover personal information of others through basic Google search. Moreover, the new social media has enabled people to share more about themselves, families, and friends through a variety of media, thereby developing and sustaining social and business relationships (Tamir & Mitchell, 2012). However, excessive usage of these platforms can actually harm the user’s privacy as their privacy can be easily breached when they are keen on disclosing themselves online publicly.
Therefore, this critical review will further discuss self-disclosure on social media in the context of online privacy.
Self-disclosure is fundamental in order to maintain relationship with other people, however oversharing may leads to many unavoidable privacy issues and concerns. Many users use social media to create their own profiles with the intention to share their personal information such as their names, photos, emails, address, and so forth. As the snippets of our lives become increasingly digital and shared online, therefore, to what extent can we retain full control of our personal information once it is posted online? When someone’s personal information disappears into cyberspace, the user has effectively lost control of the information shared online, where it could end up, and who could access it (Robinson, 2017).
Furthermore, identity theft, loss of personal data, and cyberstalking are just some of the risks that could occur from being reckless and being not aware of safe practices on over-sharing information. For example, in the case of Kim Kardashian, a reality TV star, when she was robbed at a hotel due to her giving away too much information about her daily life on all her social media accounts. After this unfortunate incident, she has limited her posts and reevaluated on how much she should be sharing online.
The concerns of the online privacy also depend on the user’s definition of privacy. According to Mekovec and Vrcek (2011), privacy is the ability of a person to control the flow of their information on what could or not be seen by their “followers”. Each individual has their own perception and understanding of what privacy is, and it may vary among different individuals. This would then influence the way of how users disclose their information. Hence, the things that you consider as private may not be considered private from another person’s point of view. One would consider that family, location or problems are personal, but it might not be for others. You may find something that is inappropriate to share, but in the eyes of the others, it might be acceptable. Therefore, it is important to actually understand many perspectives on privacy to realise the whole aspect of it. For example, recently the wife of a Singaporean celebrity, Alif Aziz, had caused an online uproar amongst the online citizens or ‘netizens’ when she posted about their marriage problems to the public. Some of the netizens thought their marriage matters were too personal and should have been kept between them, as they considered the problems as of private matters. Such example shows clear differences in the user perception towards privacy, although it is the responsibility of the person sharing most private matters on social media platform.
Furthermore, the state of anonymity is one of the factor that could influence online self-disclosure. This can be reflected by the phenomenon of ‘stranger on a train’ phenomenon, whereby people are inclined to disclose any stories about themselves to fellow passengers on the train. Such phenomenon resembles the activities of self-disclosure on online platforms, as people share almost about everything into the cyberspace than they do in offline settings (Ma, Hancock & Namaan, 2016). Henceforth, being anonymous gives freedom to its users to express themselves and share any materials online without being judged or prejudiced. Most of this situation can be found in online platforms, such as Facebook group namely Brunei FM and Reddit, whereby the users withheld the information about them and remain anonymous, especially when discussing on certain topics within a group. Therefore, the state of anonymity has encouraged online users to disclose more to the public regardless of its sensitivity. In this case, it can be seen how anonymity could influence the user’s activity in disclosing their information.
In conclusion, it is without a doubt that self-disclosure fulfills the needs for people to socialise and stay connected. However, people tend to get carried away easily in social media to the point that they tend to give away certain private matters unintentionally. Thus, it would put the users at risk and vulnerable to information loss, as disclosing information reveal some degree of privacy and the user’s control to others. Moreover, the matter of privacy should be analysed based on the individual’s perception as different people may have their own interpretation towards the subject. In addition, the state of anonymity also has an impact on the way that the users disclose themselves online. Remaining anonymous online gives the users the ability to be hidden behind the screen, but being heard. Ultimately, all the risks and issues concerning privacy matters can actually be minimised through proper management, as it is very important to keep all information safe.
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