Privacy construction on social media

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School of Business | Master's thesis
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Objectives The aim of this study is to understand the construct of privacy on social media from the consumers' perspective and to gain a better grasp of the privacy concept in terms of consumer research. More specifically, the main objective is to understand the meanings of privacy in the consumption of social media through consumers' narratives. In order to understand this, the study also concerns on how the overall phenomenon of privacy on social media and its construction is related to consumer's identity. Therefore, the meanings of consumers' privacy through self-identity will be studied, i.e. what meanings privacy has in consumers' lives, why consumers look for privacy and what do they do in order to create privacy. In spite of increasing public and academic interest in privacy the overview of the previous consumer research literature revealed these questions to be unaddressed. Thus, the main idea behind this research is to enrich our understanding of privacy concept and understand the privacy meanings in consumers' minds. Research method In order to gain subjective understanding of privacy from consumers' perspective, the research data was collected by utilizing the narrative interviews, as individuals approach privacy from the context of their own actual practices, which constitute privacy and give it meaning, associating it with their individual and subjective experiences and concerns. During the research 15 interviews were conducted. The general analysis of the data obtained was made by using the framework presented by McAdams, and by using narrative analysis, which involves constructing coherent story of the interview. The research was followed with interpretation of interviews and identification of common themes of privacy meanings. Key findings The findings of this research has brought new insight into the topic of privacy and shed light on consumer's privacy meaning construction and negotiation, and, at the same time, by using narrative approach it allowed to uncover new aspects of the privacy itself. By clarifying the meanings consumers attach to privacy and its construction from the perspective of the consumer, this research contributed towards a better understanding of consumer privacy concept and therefore, it furthered the theoretical discussion of Consumer Culture Theory by offering categories for the privacy meanings in the context of social media. More specifically, this research looked from the consumer's perspective into privacy on social media through biographical consumption narratives and life-story telling. Drawing from Altman and Westin's classic theories of privacy the main findings of this research were represented by proposed four themes that illustrate the meanings of privacy specific for the context of social media consumption by combining theoretical knowledge of privacy and the self-identity. Based on the four privacy meanings it has been identified, that privacy on social media incorporates and represents personal meaning which is based on personal goal of the self-identity. More specifically, privacy allows for identity building and maintaining by presenting disclosed self and concealing private self, developing self-ego by isolating the self, and protecting own identity by appreciating others' privacy. Moreover, by presenting close relationship of privacy and identity through four privacy meanings this research expanded the field of theoretical discussion of privacy by introducing the concepts of disclosed and private privacy in the context of social media, which is balanced by an individual and present in all cases of social media consumption in various proportions. In addition, this research also raised the issue of privacy existence on social media. Therefore, majority of consumers do have a feeling of privacy when consuming social media, however, greater knowledge in the area questions existence of privacy and introduced a bigger question whether there is privacy on social media.
privacy, yksityisyys, consumers, kuluttajat, social media, sosiaalinen media, identity, identiteetti, narrative, tarina
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