“You’re nobody, till somebody loves you. You’re nobody, till somebody cares” (Cavanaugh, 1944).
The first email was sent in 1971 (Tiedje, C., 2011). Next, along came the bulletin board systems complete with the familiar screeching sound of the modem, which the technically proficient among us learned how to turn off. After this, web browsers, search engines, and then in 1985, America on Line is born. A little over fifteen years later, MySpace and Facebook dominate the world of social media (Curtis, 2013). Now, ten years further into the twenty-first century, concerns continue to be raised as to whether social media networking sites compromise personal and professional security. But, how can individuals say that their privacy is being invaded if they are the ones who are posting their personal information online? (Holliday, 2012). It seems to me that a deep seated desire for acceptance, to be a part of the group, is driving this phenomenon.
Dr. Jürgen Habermas is a German philosopher who has focused much of his work upon what he calls the “public sphere”. The public sphere is essentially a forum for discussion and ideas formed by the “traffic in commodities and news created by early capitalist long-distance trade” (Habermas, 2010). Habermas talks about the local markets being dominated by the local political powers. Reading this, I was reminded of the group of burghers described by Washington Irving in Rip Van Winkle (Irving, 1893).
…it would have been worth any statesman’s money to have heard the profound discussions that sometimes took place when by chance an old newspaper fell into their hands from some passing traveler. …The opinions of this junto were completely controlled by Nicholas Vedder, a patriarch of the village and landlord of the inn.
Habermas describes the great traffic in news and opinion that accompanied the expanding traffic in commodities, with merchants themselves providing the first postal services. This activity was to eventually expand into a fully functioning civil society with newspapers and postal system. The internet and social media are part of the continuing expansion of the now electronic public sphere where every opinion may be heard and considered. However, just as in the Irving tale, we must remember that there are always people watching and listening to what we say, and that these people may have some influence in our lives to a greater or lesser extent.
Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist who developed a concept called the hierarchy of needs, which attempted to prioritize basic human needs. He claimed that they were, in order of immediate importance, Physiological, Safety, Belongingness and Love, Esteem, Self-Actualization and Self-Transcendence (Maslov, 1943). It seems clear how social media provides an avenue for the fulfillment of belongingness and esteem needs. Using Facebook as an example, it is possible to have hundreds of so-called friends there, and to participate in their daily lives by reading and commenting on their postings, thereby fulfilling the need to belong. Also, the response to postings made by an individual, and the recognition of even minor achievements, such as a birthday, can boost selfHYPHEN esteem. This, it seems to me, it part of what makes social media so attractive.
In 1968, pop artist Andy Warhol was quoted as saying, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes” (Greenberg, 2004). There is a wide variety of opinion regarding precisely what he meant by that, but what is clear is that by posting a viral video on YouTube, one can have their moment in the world’s spotlight. However, this is not automatically guaranteed, and so the individual is driven to post another video, and so on. With each post, whether written or on film, we voluntarily add more information about who we are, and what we think to a file that anyone may access.
In his poem To a Louse, Robert Burns writes, “O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us, to see oursels as ithers see us! It wad frae mony a blunder free us, an’ foolish notion” (Burns, 1897). Psychologists Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham developed a self-awareness matrix in 1955, called the Johari window (Luft, 1979). It describes what we and others may know about ourselves, and what may not be known. What others know about us is discerned from what we say and do. What is known by myself and others is called the Arena, what is known by myself and unknown by others is the Façade, that which I hide from others. What is unknown by me, and yet is known by others is called the Blind Spot. Finally (COMMA) what is unknown by both myself and unknown by others is called, you guessed it, The Unknown. I suggest that when we begin to post freely and regularly, perhaps daily to social media sites, we may, over time, unconsciously reveal many things about ourselves that we ordinarily would not, compromising our personal and professional security.
The comedian Mel Brooks said, in The History of the World, part I, “It’s good to be the King!” inferring that he could say and do whatever he wished (Brooks, 2006). It is a rare person who is transparent enough that they should wish that everything about them should be publicly known, especially by our present and future employers, spouses, and neighbors. While we enjoy the freedom to speak and think what we wish in the public sphere, and while it may help us to know ourselves, it is important for us to know our place as well, and consider how we may jeopardize our personal and professional security by so doing.
Brooks, M., DeLuise, D., Kahn, M., Korman, H., Leachman, C., Carey, R., Welles, O., … Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Inc. (2006). History of the world, part 1. Beverly Hills, Calif: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.
Burns, R., & Henley, W. E. (1897). The complete poetical works of Robert Burns. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Co.
And would some Power the small gift give us to see ourselves as others see us! It would from many a blunder free us, and foolish notion.
Cavanaugh, J., & Morgan, R., & Stock, L. (Words & Music). (1944). You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You. [Sheet Music]. New York, NY: Peer International Music
Curtis, A. (2013) “The Brief History of Social Media.” Internet Website. University of North Carolina. http://www.uncp.edu/home/acurtis/NewMedia/SocialMedia/SocialMediaHistory.html
Greenberg, J., & Jordan, S. (2004). Andy Warhol: Prince of pop. New York: Delacorte Press
Habermas, J. (2010) The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society. Cambridge: Polity Press,. Pg 15.
Holliday, L. (2012) “Invasion of privacy is a personal problem” Sun Sentinal. Internet Website http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2012-05-16/sports/fl-tl-0517collegeview-20120516_1_google-and-facebook-privacy-policies-google-chrome
Irving, W, & Boughton, G.(1893) Rip Van Winkle & The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. London: Macmillan and Co. Pgs 39-40
Luft, J., Ingham, H., & J.C. Penney Co. (1979). Communication concepts: The JoHari window. New York: J.C. Penney Co.
Maslov, A. (1943). A Theory of Human Motivation. Psychological Review, American Psychological Association. Vol. 50 #4, pp. 370–396.
Tiedje, C, Sun Sentinel (2011) “Social Media Timeline” Sun Sentinal. Internet Website http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2011-08-31/sports/fl-social-media-timeline-0901-20110830_1_users-google-aol-instant-messenger