“It’s not like it’s life or death or whatever”: young people’s understandings of social media data

Luci Pangrazio, Neil Selwyn

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    18 Citations (Scopus)


    Young people’s engagements with social media now generate large quantities of personal data, with “big social data” becoming an increasingly important “currency” in the digital economy. While using social media platforms is ostensibly “free,” users nevertheless “pay” for these services through their personal data—enabling advertisers, content developers, and other third parties to profile, predict, and position individuals. Such developments have prompted calls for social media users to adopt more informed and critical stances toward how and why their data are being used—that is, to build “critical data literacies.” This article reports on research that explores young social media users’ understandings of their personal data and its attendant issues. Drawing on research with groups of young people (aged 13–17 years), the article investigates the consequences of making third party (re)uses of personal data openly available for social media users to interpret and make critical sense of. The findings provide valuable insights into young people’s understandings of the technical, social, and cultural issues that underpin their ability to engage with, and make sense of, social media data. The article concludes by considering how research into critical data literacies might connect in more meaningful and effective ways with everyday lived experiences of social media use.

    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages9
    JournalSocial Media + Society
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018


    • social media
    • personal data
    • data literacies
    • teenagers
    • privacy
    • security

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