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Facebook and the vulnerability of the self

By Elisabetta Costa, on 7 February 2014

Photo by Elisabetta Costa

Photo by Elisabetta Costa

A social panic surrounding Facebook has arisen in my field-site in south-east Turkey: nasty cheaters use hacker applications to steal Facebook user names and passwords in order to damage people’s reputation!

The practice of stealing Facebook passwords to post shameful images and video, and swear words on other people’s walls seems to be quite common among young adults. Apparently the town is full of hacking applications that allows spiteful people to enter other Facebook pages and make unpleasant jokes. I met several people whose Facebook profile has been stolen and used to post nasty surprises that ruin their honour. And many young people are really afraid that such a thing can happen to them as well: “Facebook can be very dangerous” I’ve been told several times. I don’t know if hacking applications are really effective here in Dry Rock Town. But surely people continuously share common computers and smartphones, and probably forget to log out from their accounts, giving the opportunity to strangers and perfidious friends to commit these offences.

One of the most prevalent fears people have is that of losing control of their public image that can bring public disapproval. The public image on the Facebook wall can be seen as an extension of the person, but this in turn makes the person more vulnerable. Photos, images, thoughts, and private talks are all significant parts of the self that are “out there” and can be easily violated by others. A simple joke can indelibly violate the self: everybody in the large network of friends and acquaintances can potentially become a threat to the self by entering into its boundaries after having stolen a password. In the age of Facebook the borders of the self are extended, but at the same time more fragile and vulnerable. And when these borders of the self are vulnerable, honour can be shattered.

This moral panic surrounding Facebook reflects the anxiety related to the vulnerability of the self that Facebook has made more apparent. I really believe that traditional codes of honour and shame are given new life in the age of social media.

8 Responses to “Facebook and the vulnerability of the self”

  • 1
    Seda Keskin wrote on 7 February 2014:

    Seda Keskin liked this on Facebook.

  • 2
    Ashley Dutton wrote on 7 February 2014:

    Ashley Dutton liked this on Facebook.

  • 3
    Paul Booth wrote on 8 February 2014:

    Paul Booth liked this on Facebook.

  • 4
    Eloise Hammond wrote on 21 March 2014:

    I’d be interested to know whether you’ve found much affect from current political focus/control on/over social media in Turkey at the moment? (Twitter now banned by ruling government)

  • 5
    Elisabetta Costa wrote on 24 March 2014:

    My field-site is in south-east Turkey, a region inhabited by a majority of Kurdish population. Most of people I’ve spoken with have relatives or friends that have been arrested, tortured or killed by the State. In the last ten years political websites have been constantly closed, and content creators prosecuted or arrested for having written simple comments and words criticizing the government. Censorship and lack of freedom of expression are constantly part of every-day people’s life. For these reasons people are not giving so much attention to the ban of Twitter, simply seen as one (and probably less harmful) of the many forms of State oppression. Then, most of the Kurds I’ve spoken with are in somehow pleased that censorship is affecting people in the West of the country too – the main users of Twitter – after they have been for many years the main target of State violence in front of the indifference of the Turks. I think International media are giving to the Twitter ban much more importance than the local population. International media and governments probably lack to recognize that in Turkey people are not allowed to protest and to express dissent anyway; in such a situation the ban of twitter is seen just a small piece of a wider system of control.

  • 6
    Paul Booth wrote on 12 May 2015:

    Paul Booth liked this on Facebook.

  • 7
    Ashley Dutton wrote on 12 May 2015:

    Ashley Dutton liked this on Facebook.

  • 8
    Seda Keskin wrote on 12 May 2015:

    Seda Keskin liked this on Facebook.