Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Does the future use of social media portend an expectation of whitelisting?

One of the important concepts in the use of social media is “whitelisting”, the idea that content is posted for the eyes of people already “approved” as “friends” or “followers”, or, in the older Web 1.0 environment, recipients on a listserver.  Of course, digital communications are “permanent” and can be forwarded to others in ways not controlled by the sender.  In practice, this has been a real problem for the “privacy” many people, especially teenagers and young adults.

"Friend-specific" applications processing has gone quite far.  I think it's a little creepy to want to check a seating chart for a concert against social media to see who might be sitting near you, but that's how far it has gotten.  
It sounds like there is a chicken-and-egg problem here.  Are “we” supposed to make our “friends” in the real world (through work, church, volunteerism, socializing in bars, courtship, and anything else) first, before we decide who should receive our communications? That would seem to give a “purpose” to communicating material that might seem provocative or a sign of recklessness or bad judgment if released into the wild (as I found out with my substitute teaching fiasco in 2005, noted here July 27, 2007).  I can see how this concept could become important in some quarters, for example perhaps homeowner’s insurance, as well as the job market and exposure of other family members. (But oversharing with loosely screened "friends" of daily activity details leads to security and reputation problems, too.)

That’s not the spin, however, of the book “The New Digital Age” (mentioned in yesterday’s post).  The early chapters suggest that people will evolve digital identities that parallel their “real” ones.   Everyone will live a “Second Life”. 
In fact, my self-publication, and leveraging of the free and generous (perhaps gratuitous) search –engine indexing in the early days of my web presence (the late 90s, when I put my first “Do Ask Do Tell” book text online) helped me to find interesting people in the real world.  It worked in the reverse of the way Facebook is supposed to work now. 
There are even deeper questions that follow: like what “you” value in other people. When will meeting real needs first be emotionally satisfying?

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