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Social media technologies are popular and pervasive. They also entail the submission of personal data which is sold on to third parties. Users trade their personal data in return for free access to social media services. This paper uses Michel Foucault’s work on panopticism, from his book of the mid-nineteen seventies, Discipline and Punish, to analyse users’ practices on social media and their thoughts and feelings regarding the usage of their personal data. An online survey and semi-structured interviews were used to gather data. Twenty-one participants, most of whom were postgraduate students, completed a survey and four attended a follow-up, semi-structured interview. The paper argues that users adopt a fatalistic position regarding the submission of their personal data, and that users value social media services. The paper makes a significant contribution to the literature by surveying social media usage in general rather than one social media provider; by showing how users tend to curate identities on social media as a defensive strategy in relation to the fact that the data they submit does not belong to them and may be sold on; and by arguing that social media users tend not to hold social media companies responsible for the data they extricate from users.
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