How Teens Are Employing Steganography On Facebook

How Teens Are Employing Steganography On Facebook

Teens on Facebook are using cryptic posts to convey their real expressions to their friends.

Naresh Kumar
  • 3 february 2011

A new trend has emerged in Facebook where teens are using language hacks as a way to communicate with their friends. Termed ‘social steganography’ by researcher Danah Boyd, such a status update, mostly in the form of song lyrics, looks innocuous enough to their parents who are also on their kids’ friends list, but convey the real meaning behind the post to the friends for whom it was actually intended, mostly because they share the same pop culture and other interests. This helps the teens to maintain their online presence, socialize on Facebook and post candid updates about themselves without fearing about their folks suspecting anything.

Probably some food for thought for Facebook to refine its privacy settings?

Wired reports:

The solution is what researcher Danah Boyd has dubbed social steganography. Teenagers now post status updates that have two layers: A bland surface meaning intended for parents, and a deeper, richer significance that can be decoded only by close friends.

For example, Boyd interviewed one girl who was going through a breakup while on a class trip and wanted her friends to know but not her mother (who’d “have a heart attack”). So the teenager posted the chorus of a black-humor Monty Python song sung by a group of men who’ve been crucified. (“Always look on the bright side of life / Always look on the bright side of life!”) Her close friends, being fans of the movie, understood the reference and immediately messaged her to offer support. But her mother didn’t know the film, so she thought the lyrics were genuinely cheery and posted a response saying she was glad her daughter was happy.

Wired: “Clive Thompson on Secret Messages in the Digital Age”


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