NY Times and the New Yorker on Privacy and Sharing

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On October 4, 2014, the New York Times published an article by Kate Murphy called, We Want Privacy, But Can’t Stop Sharing. Murphy describes our shifting definitions of privacy, both online and offline. She explains the social implications of some basic, and often ill-conceived, assumptions we make about individuals who choose a higher level of privacy than ourselves. She considers the different metaphors we use for privacy to work through new perspectives.

“When people want privacy there’s often this idea that, ‘Oh, they are hiding something dirty,’ but they are really just trying to hold onto themselves,” Professor Nippert-Eng said.

As people work through what it means to be private, to have privacy in public digital spaces, and to share for convenience and sociability, the European Union is pressing for a right to be forgotten.


Meanwhile, The New Yorker is reflecting this week on the changing nature of friendship in a digital culture where limits on the number of people you can share with (or friend) are nearly limitless.

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Maria Konnikova writes about the study of social networks, and the changing expectations of how we maintain circles of friends. Konnikova reports on studies defining limits on friendship in social media extrapolated from observations of social habits of monkeys.

There’s no question, Dunbar agrees, that networks like Facebook are changing the nature of human interaction. “What Facebook does and why it’s been so successful in so many ways is it allows you to keep track of people who would otherwise effectively disappear,” he said.

The article describes how our social media are enabling us to maintain much larger circles of friends in spite of scientific evidence that shows consistency in social network sizes due to human limitations. The article discusses the relative benefits of this increased social capacity, but also how it is making us less social in certain ways.


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