I’ve hated the idea of “frictionless sharing” ever since I first saw the Facebook Yahoo! app post to my Facebook wall that I’d read one of their articles (I instantly removed the post, remove the app, and haven’t clicked on a Yahoo! link since).
I share the view that I’ve now seen in a number of places – this might be frictionless but it isn’t sharing. At best is automatic visibility. Sharing is something you do when you make a conscious decision that someone else might be interested in something you have to say. It is curation or cultivation of some context that you have filtered out from everything else and decided is worthy of a wider audience. It is making time to make a point (like this blog post perhaps) and making a, hopefully small amount of effort, but still a conscious effort, to pass it on.
The use of social media is a performance – it is constructing a view of ourselves that we would like others to see. Most hope that their status will be construed as witty, intelligent, cool or be looking for some reaffirmation from friends or some token of support or validation of their actions … whatever, but the point is that this is all part of someone saying “this is me”.
So when I see apps that automatically post that so-and-so has read such-and-such an article, and is listening to this or that, I often wonder if that is part of the image that the person is happy to be presenting. Often it is – but sometimes you wonder why someone is reading a specific article. Of course what is missing is the reaction to the article. Yes I might read an article about something, but did I like it? Did I agree with it? Did it disgust me? When I had to click “Like” to get it listed on Facebook, that would give a clue. When I have to click “share” to post it, I get the option of some context as to why I’m posting it. When the app posts on my behalf, noone has any idea about the context of my reading it and may attempt to draw their own conclusions (most of which will almost certainly be incorrect).
I fully subscribe to the idea of people have private thoughts to experiment with ideas and consider a range of options before making up their minds about something. They should be free to follow a range of links about a topic, many they won’t agree with – only then can they get a well-rounded view of it all. But in an age of “frictionless sharing” will people start to think twice before they click on a link or see a film or watch something on TV or listen to that track? Will we slowly breed a society of banal conformity?
Well maybe there is hope – it would appear that the idea of automatic posting may be starting to take its course. Yes it might be good for Facebook to decide that telling your friends that you’ve clicked on something will increase their internal hit counts and encourage your friends to click too, which helps their ad business … but it would appear that some are starting to question it too. At last.
You used to be able to pick up a book or read an article and keep the knowledge of the activity firmly in your own head. This is a good thing. Lets hope it’s not too late to turn that around.
Further reading on this topic:
- The Perils of Social Reading