Previously published in Psychology Today “Positively Media.”
Facebook’s recent privacy control changes have triggered a big response of concern, indignation, and pages of analysis. One thing you have to love about social media, when people are ticked off, you find out pretty fast. Facebook is doing some rhetorical back-pedaling but when people are angry, they demand solutions—often in haste and not often rationally. This has added fuel to the political fire to regulate social networking sites like Facebook. It’s time to take a deep breath and realize that we need a longer view to achieve a solution that is both effective and sustainable. That solution is education, not legislation. We need to redefine media literacy to include understanding how media technologies work and how they are used, not focus on content. We need to elevate media literacy to media citizenship.
Facebook violated a social contract with its users. People are rightfully frustrated when they sign up for something and the rules change. But for Facebook users, this is more than that. The changes to privacy controls violate cultural expectations and cross a psychological boundary, not just the fine print. The sense of betrayal is heightened because of the personal investment, not to mention exposure, people have in an online identity, experience, friends, and community. There is a danger, though, that these emotions will cloud people’s vision about the longer-term and the more fundamental principles at stake. Short-term fixes won’t address longer-term issues.
Whatever the core issues are—and not everyone agrees—the problems are not unique to Facebook. We are all grappling with the implications of a digitally connected world and what this means for a myriad of issues. The solution, however, is not in lawsuits or regulation. Both are a waste of resources and neither will achieve a positive objective: making people safe and effective navigators of the continually evolving digital landscape. The solution is in education.
It’s time we admitted that we are a technology-rich society and redefined media literacy to include understanding how media technologies work, not just what’s in them. We need to elevate media literacy to media citizenship.Continue Reading