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
I’ve slowly been (finally) getting to grips with the Facebook friends lists feature and have been noticing some interesting side effects of using it.
First of all, I finally know how to get Facebook to stop censoring my newsfeed. You add people to your “close friends” list, then you get every gory detail.
So next – do I want my lists to be cumulative or exclusive? Do I want close friends to appear in acquaintances as well? I opted for exclusive – if they are on one, then I won’t put them on the other.
Restricted friends – i.e. those friends you want to list (for whatever reason, friends hardly ever means “friends” on Facebook) that by default, you are happy to not see what you get up to. A smart move by Facebook as by giving this built-in censoring people will be happy to divulge more to the social network “safe” in the knowledge that their boss, parent or otherwise “don’t want to unfriend but don’t want to broadcast to” contact won’t see it.
The “smart lists” are interesting too – grouping those to have openly admitted to going to the same school, working at the same company or otherwise are members of something that is shared with you. But I notice that Facebook still offers up the rest of your friends as suggestions for adding to these lists too.
So, if I haven’t volunteered a piece of information – say which school I went to – but a number of my friends have, then it would be natural for them, if using the school smart list, to “add” me to their list for their school. The upshot is that even if I didn’t want to tell Facebook what school I went to, they don’t need me to anymore. The chances are that at least one of my friends will have put me in their “school” smart list.
This is like other people tagging me in photos but without me being able to opt out.
Crowdsourced personal tagging. Nice one Facebook – you seemed to have snuck that one in on us all and managed to align the incentives so that people will do it because its useful to them. Clever.
What’s next I wonder – smart lists for interests, sexual orientation, age, location? Oh yes, they already do that one – anyone I’m friends with can now tag me as a “local” friend and tell Facebook where I am whether I wanted to tell them or not.
Ok, so how about a generic framework for me to create my own list, add a set of people and then use the Facebook “like” system to categorise it in a way that is meaningful to me – with the side effect of telling Facebook everyone who (in my opinion) likes banana ice-cream, whilst building lego models at Justin Bieber gigs (or whatever criteria I’ve chosen to use).
And of course you’ll have no idea of how others have classified you. And you’ll have no option to refute it. I wonder how long it will be before there is a healthy third-party marketing business to work the system. How about a company paying people a penny to classify their friends with an interest in their product, so that ads for it float to the top of their Facebook page? You can already run “campaigns” to get more likes, visits, page views and so on (the scary one is paying $0.13 to “create a gmail account for me” … no prizes for guessing what that might be trying to circumvent …).
Getting your friends to “out you” on Facebook. Creepy yet? Oh yes. Good job that is a long way into the future … ahem, well actually, maybe it isn’t.
And of course, just deciding not to be part of this is probably non longer an option. Even if you’re not on Facebook, it probably doesn’t need you to be anymore – your friends can tell it all it needs to know. Just imagine the advertising opportunities for Facebook that already exist from sending emails to those not yet on Facebook based on what their friends have already volunteered about them.
There was an interesting programme on telly last night (Tues) about CCTV in the UK (the first in a two-part series). It showed lots of examples of when CCTV helped solved crimes over the years, presenting significant ‘mile-stones’ in the development of the technology.
What it didn’t really do however, was address the other side of the argument, and talk about what has been lost in the process. Everyone remembers a few very high-profile cases where they were a real asset. No one knows if there are any privacy violations that are caused by having cameras. I’m certainly not aware of any analysis of whether the cost (in terms of what we lose in privacy) is outweighed by the gains.
They also talked about how cameras act as a deterrent – again this is true from the point of view of the community that now has the cameras, but it hasn’t solve the crime problem, just moved it to another area that doesn’t have cameras. The problem is solved from the point of view of the community, but not from the point of view of society.
All very interesting though, but I would like to see the other side of the story – especially as cameras are (apparently) getting more intelligent in spotting problems.