Dec 11

I Don’t Want to Burst Your Web 2.0 Bubble, But…

Mark Zuckerberg is five years younger than me and is a billionaire on paper. A billionaire because he helps a bunch of kids throw their pictures to their friends. Marketers go gaga with the prospects of hocking all the latest goodies at the young ones. These young ones will only get older, but I can’t imagine they’ll stop using the web to network. The social web has been born, but when will it mature? What will it take?

The barriers for entry for everything have never been lower. Anyone can be a star. Anyone can network with just about anyone. We are quickly reaching critical mass. t’s just like the song “Imagine.” We can all contribute, because we can connect to each other so much faster and more efficiently than ever before.

But what if you don’t want to be connected? What if you want to disconnect from someone but can’t? You are connected with your friends. If you disconnect from someone, what prevents that disconnected someone from just connecting with the thousands of other “friends”, “connections”, or whatever term social networking sites use to describe the twenty people you actually know and care about and the hundreds of others that you are affiliated with in some form or another? How do you escape that web?

Profound people like to say that you cannot control how others perceive you on the web. While this is true, I don’t really believe people grasp what it means. There is nothing wrong with networking online, but going for quantity of connections rather than quality connections that can actually help fulfill our lives can be harmful to ourselves and to others. Think about it–do you really want to commit to be connected to a stranger? Even if you hit that “remove connection” button to zap that person into cyberspace, he or she has now been exposed to all of your contacts and probably quite a few details about your life. That person also has access to a vast network of people who surround you. Do you know that person? Do you know what he or she is going to use your “profile” and your connections to do? No, you simply click a button and “add” them. Or you set up a script that adds them for you. Why bother discerning who is worthy of connectivity when it takes so much time?

Are you a member of a pug fan meetup.com group? Did you accept a member who you don’t even know (with meetup, do you even have a choice as long as they have a valid email)? Now, not only does that unknown member know that you attend a Tuesday night pug appreciation group, that stranger now knows what every other pug fan in your group is doing on Tuesday night. Are you sure your fellow pug fans wanted that specific person knowing their Tuesday night plans? No, but they were not given the choice.

So as social networks add more and more users and Zuckerberg gets drunk with money, we weave this web that involves more commitment than we should be willing to accept.

Here’s a challenge for you. Challenge a social networking site on these issues to your safety and privacy, and count how many stock responses you get from their support team.