Teens See Facebook Differently

by Ryan Singel on May 11, 2011

Parents often think their teenage children will post anything to the web, and that it’s fair game for them to comment on their kid’s status messages. But teens have a different idea of what kind of public space Facebook actually is, according to new research from Microsoft.

In restaurants, people often dine close enough to overhear every conversation, but they pretend to not listen in. This act of ‘giving someone space’ is a gift of privacy. Goffman calls it ‘civil inattention.’

Civil inattention is a social norm, driven by an ideal of respect. Staring at someone or openly listening in on their conversations is a violation of social norms which makes people uneasy because it is experienced as an invasion of privacy. For teens, the same holds true online; they expect people – most notably, those who hold power over them – to respect their space.

That’s the one of the conclusions from Microsoft researchers Danah Boyd and Alice Marwick in their new paper (.pdf).

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