There has been a lot of discussion recently about the global phenomenon of ‘selfies’ – and what they say about us.
The smartphone self-portrait has become so widespread that it’s now the realm of proper academic research for people like myself and the word has even made it into the Oxford Online Dictionary – along with the word ‘Twerk’ (twist and jerk, keep up) – with the help of pop star Miley Cyrus.
So here’s an interesting question. Given the multitude of multimedia, technology and platforms, how should we, and women in particular, portray ourselves? For Miley this is perhaps more simple – continue with the posing and the #twerking. There are other reasons why Miley’s actions should give us cause for concern in the eyes of women – but that debate is for a different post.
For the everyday woman, multiple platforms suggests multiple content; but not necessarily multiple selves. To some extent, the nature of the platform ‘does the job’ for us – for example, LinkedIn formality versus Facebook frankness.
Here are my two main concerns:
First, it is important to always convey an authentic self. However, it is more important to protect personal privacy and your own data. Practical ways to manage this include sharpening up privacy settings and thinking very carefully about what account or platform is connected and has access to your profile/s.
Second, open access. Smartphone apps are notorious for having permissions that require the user to allow blanket open-access; including one I downloaded this week that can ‘post on my behalf’ and ‘has access to my personal messages’.
Across the digital landscape there are many new avenues for creative, informative, interactive and participatory output and connections. However, having had a very recent case of too much harassment, I would also caution against what first appears to be a light incidence of digital communication that can quickly spill into quite nasty and aggressive, and unwelcome contact.
The police take seriously this level of intrusion. The Protection From Harassment Act 1997 is the primary law that is referred to when discussing this kind of interaction, and very recently there has been an update to the law, with the Crown Prosecution Service publishing new guidelines on prosecuting cases involving social media.
From the experience that I had, you should not simply ‘live with it’. Do report everything and keep a record of everything. Again, the mistake I made in the first instance was to delete a lot of the initial correspondence. What remained was still enough to put some boundaries in place. I would recommend the following when seeking digital refuge:
You need to formally indicate that the communication is not appropriate and ask in writing (in whatever form you feel most comfortable) that they do not to contact you again.
Once this is in place, proceed with the following:
1. Email filter;
2. Block on ALL social network sites;
3. Change your phone number.
Remember before doing this to save all communication, as this can – and should – be used as evidence.
Amid its endless potential, the internet also compounds offline risks and negative experiences, such as unwanted communication, casual sexism, solicitation, bullying and harassment, as well as exposure to pornography and other potentially harmful materials.
The main message is to treat your digital traces as you would your hard copy and ‘real’ records. Remember that you should also carry out a systematic review of your content and manage your privacy on a regular basis.
Picture credit: TorrentPrivacy blog
About the author
Mariann is programme director and a lecturer in marketing at Durham University Business School. She is a social media professional and academic and the BBC North East commentator for social media and digital networks. In her work Mariann seeks to identify and understand how real social relationships are mediated through digital social networks and Web 2.0 applications.