danah boyd identifies social steganography as “hiding messages in plain sight by leveraging shared knowledge and cues embedded in particular social contexts” (boyd 2014, 63). In line with her argument that teen life on social media is largely consistent with teen life IRL, she does note that the wider audience present in social media makes such practices more enticing because of their greater visibility. These dramas are then ways to exercise power, marking of who is in and who is out – something she found common in teen use of social media (as in her discussion of ‘sub-tweeting’).
But social media as a ‘networked public’ is linked to general exercises of power in society, as boyd introduces in her discussion of Michel Foucault (2014, 74). But to extend Foucault’s concept of discipline, how much of the social media that teens (or any group of users) consume is an exercise of power by the market? Or to put it another way, how much does social media as an everyday practice (or addiction) discipline teens to be avid postmodern consumers? Maybe another way to think about this issue is who wins when people create their own content to be consumed by others?
When teens engage with networked media, they’re trying to take control of their lives and their relationship to society. In doing so, they begin to understand how people relate to one another and how information flows between people. They learn about the social world, and as Bianca points out, they develop social skills (boyd 2014, 93)
boyd also asserts that “Technology can amplify existing dramas, but it can also create new mechanisms for meanness and cruelty to unfold” (boyd 2014, 140). How ‘safe’ is the internet or social media for teens? Sexual predators and bullying are popular issues in the discourse on social media, but how much should it be?