Article Reviewed: Publicly Private and Privately Public: Social Networking on YouTube




YouTube is a social medium that allows viewers to navigate through many genres of videos. Exploring YouTube and the use of private verse public videos this article examines aspects of being publicly private and privately public. Sharing material on YouTube can be shared to all without privacy settings or just to a few using privacy settings. Viral videos can be explored are accessed very easily verses more specialized videos for small groups of people.


Publicly Private and Privately Public: Social Networking on YouTube

Literature Review

By Tyler Watzke

With the diversity of each YouTube “channel” the public can explore viral videos, family videos, personal videos, and leave comments. YouTube is considered a social network because of the amount of sharing within a small circle or large circle. This article zooms in on the aspects of the target audience and size of the audience. Formal interviews were given to many youth and young adults to analyze different levels of visibility within the medium of YouTube (Lange, 2007)

Social network is hard to define because the definition depends upon how one measures it. For example, you can measure social network upon relationship, social interaction, and closeness (Lange, 2007). Social network can be articulated by viewing profiles, which could include something like friend requests.
When thinking about what is public versus what is private you must ask what is hidden and what is open (Lange, 2007). Privacy is something that remains hidden such as pictures, videos, posts, or all of the above. This can be seen as preventing access to anyone outside your circle. Public grants access to all who wish to view the content. Different variations can be put upon public and private. A video on YouTube can be publicly private or privately public.


If a profile is publicly private, it is a profile that can be seen by anyone, but the content is harder to find. The lack of tags and keywords in a video can make it more publicly private and also the content in the video could only be interesting to a small circle of friends. Another way to make a profiles content publicly private is to use privacy settings. The privacy settings can be changed to friends only.

Another way for information to be shared in a publicly private way is by sharing videos of a private experience and doing it in a public way by reveling personal information (Lange, 2007). People can add privacy by limiting context and understand to the audience and only applying it to one group of people. Many interviews were given to help understand the use of publicly private.

One example was a video made by a boy named Anjin. He shared a video of his Jewish friend taking a thumbs up picture of a graffiti wall and there was a swastika on the wall. The Jewish friend did not notice, but Anjin did. This would be an example of publicly private because anyone could have watched this video, but it would only have meaning if you knew that the boy was Jewish.

When a profile is privately public it means that you share your videos with everyone, but you hide information about yourself. These videos are not based on the people taking the video but purely on content (Lange, 2007). Reasons for this is that someone could get in trouble for the content that they are showing, they may not want family and co-workers to see it was them, or just for their own safety.

An example of this was given by a boy in his mid-teens named CT. after getting in a fight with his friend RJ about videography CT decided to make his own videos. The kicker was that he was disguised and the voice he used was lowered. His videos were meant to go viral and gain worldwide popularity so that when the right time came he could reveal himself to his friend RJ and show him that he had what it takes to make a viral video (Lange, 2007).

Throughout the interviews, it was found that many of the interviewees would share videos on YouTube to stay in touch with their families. This allowed other members of the families to see what everyone is up to along with allowing them to comment on the videos to continue the conversation. This is something especially for families who do not have the opportunity to see family members for a long time because of distance or disabilities (Lange, 2007).

There are very relevant reasons that people partake in publicly private behavior. Among interviewees, is the downfall of setting “friends only”. This forces viewers to have a YouTube account. Sharing videos publicly allows family members to easily search for the desired content on Google or YouTube. Videos on YouTube become more private when the video has few tags attached to it and family members and friends can access it that way without it becoming overly public.

In addition to that, some accounts could seem privately public, but they just lack a following. It is hard to gain exposure without the right material. This may, in fact, be a fully public account. A public account gives information about the participant. Interaction dynamics can result in the type of public account you have.

This article Talks about YouTube as a social network, shows how a profile can be publicly private, how a profile can be privately public, and how you can assure privacy or publicity within the medium of YouTube. As technology advances it becomes easier to stay connected with people who are far away. It bridges the gap between families that ultimately brings them closer together. Learning to be publicly private and privately public can help the connection between small families or a wider friend group.






Lange, G. Patricia. (2007). Publicly Private and Privately Public: Social Networking on YouTube. Journal of Computer- Mediated Communication, October 2007, Volume 13, Issue 1, 361-380.


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