The Problem With Social Networks: When Worlds Collide

from the keep-'em-separated dept

There’s a famous episode of Seinfeld where the character of George Costanza freaks out that his worlds are “colliding” when the woman he’s dating starts becoming friends with his friends. It made for an amusing episode, but it is true that most people have separate “worlds” of people that they know — and that can cause problems on social networks. Most social networks effectively treat every one of your friends the same. There may be some slight levels of differences, but there’s still a lot of overlap. And that’s troublesome when your college buddies know you as one sort of person and your work colleagues know you as someone else. As the article above notes, as more and more people get on Facebook, and more of these worlds collide, it actually may cause some people to stop using the social networks as much and to pull back from sharing certain bits of information that made the various systems fun in the first place. Next up: which social network will allow you to have totally different profiles depending on who’s looking at the page?

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Comments on “The Problem With Social Networks: When Worlds Collide”

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Tarandon says:

This is not true for Pownce.

Pownce will not allow you to have a seperate profile, but it will allow you to group your friends into any number of categories. When posting messages or links to content you have a choice of which group it goes to. If you manage your friends properly you can actually send stuff to just the people from work, or just your family, or just your friends, or if it’s the part of you thats common to each world, you can post it to all of them. There’s also an option to post to the public. I think it’s a unique solution to this problem, and it’s one of the reasons I abandoned facebook in it’s place.

Prof. Matt says:

Students and Teachers

There are legitimate reasons to distinguish between types of friendship. I was one of the first faculty members at my institution to join Facebook. It was an excellent way to reach students, gently remind them of homework or upcoming deadlines, and keep track of how they were doing — I told them in class I would do this. Though I stayed away from the things on their profiles obviously intended solely for their peers or prospective mates, I reminded them that such things (drinking photos, etc.) are visible to many, including the campus police. These students were – and are – my friends, but it’s a necessarily bounded and finite relationship, and I take my role as teacher very seriously. My profile is necessarily only so personal. Now that anyone can join Facebook, I am “friended” by, for example, women I’ve dated or colleagues at other institutions, prospective employers, and so on, all people who might question my having so many undergraduate “friends”. I wouldn’t mind sharing certain personal information with these new people, but I don’t have the option to keep, for example, my birthday from my students but not from my colleagues.

Annonomous Facebook user says:

Are we wanna-be 007's?

I think the answer is simple: be you.

Why in the world would one be scared to be themselves in any situation? I know…fear of social rejection, insecurity. But perhaps these sites like Facebook really make us realize that who we are is unavoidable. And even if we say stuff like in the about me: “1st of all, I LOVE GOD! 2nd of all, I love beer” and put an obnoxious list of every band our friends have mentioned to us under our “music” it is irrelevant to how we live.

DaveW (user link) says:

When social networks collide

The ability to show different profiles when different friends visit would be very powerful. You could show a professional, LinkedIn-like profile when bosses, colleagues and clients visit, a Facebook-like profile for friends and family, a MySpace-like profile for fans and acquaintances. And so-on.

[sing along now…] Your Jobster profile’s connected to your StumbleUpon profile, your StumbleUpon profile’s connected to your Flickr profile, your Flickr profile’s connected to your Digg profile…

toby (profile) says:

the network effect is wrong

This is a very serious issue that is underestimated by all those who are new to social networks. The network effect argues that as the network grows, so does its utility. But with social networks, this utility hits a wall and asymptotes to the floor after growth hits a certain point. In short, the network effect is wrong.

I started using facebook in May 04. Back then, it was great and became even better as more of my college friends came on board. Within a couple years there were parents, professors, bosses, younger siblings and distant friends who I didn’t want seeing my content. This drastically cut the utility of the site. No more sharing personal info. No more sharing phone numbers, correct email addresses, or anything that might actually be useful. Most of my friends replaced their revealing profiles with generic boilerplate and stopped visiting the site.

Here’s what I think will happen: Facebook will become more like a directory: Lots of us will be infrequent users who share very little information but use the site to facilitate point-to-point contact. In its place will rise a bunch of subject/demographic/psychographic-specific walled gardens where we can all feel comfortable sharing info with a select group of people.

Charles says:

Doesn’t FB already do this with their privacy options? You can select how much you want to share with everyone and then allow more access to information with your friends. You can even set it down to the person if you are really paranoid. For myself i have a white list and my public profile fairly limited on what you can find on me or my friends.

Xyro TR1 (profile) says:

Connections and Collisions - Why Facebook Isn't fo

I don’t use social networking sites, and that is one of the reasons why. I have a “real life”, and two seperate online identities, neither of which are associated with the other. My “real life” friends know of whatever online identities I tell them, and no more. You can’t even use Google to find one of ’em. One of my identities online is closely related to my “real life”, and those two collide. The other has literally, no association with my other identity, and almost no association with my “real life”. If I used a social networking website, I fear I would lose that separation.

Anonymous Coward says:

And then there's the Second Life Aspect

Let’s say you are known in some virtual world. Your persona there is pretty much how you are in real life (RL). Some folks on your facebook know you through the usual means, and a couple that know you from Second Life happen to know your RL identity.

But here’s where it gets interesting.. if you dont want to be real public about your Second Life avatar – what do you do? Create a facebook account for that? It does get ridiculous at some point – we all have our professional, casual, school, and virtual sides, and maintaining separate spaces for each gets to be a headache. Hopefully FB or some entity will come up with a good solution…

Lisa Creech Bledsoe (user link) says:

Let Your Life Be ONE

I’m not sure why we all want to be so schizo about our online identities. I’m a creative director AND a church planter, and I used to work hard to keep church stuff and business stuff separate. I finally (finally!) quit that craziness, and not only do I feel better, business clients self-select, not connecting with me if they are freaked out by the church thing, or getting curious and asking how such an odd combination came to be. Sigh. Much better.

steeeve says:

The less you can control, the less you can share. And FB REALLY needs to change their TOS prohibiting multiple accounts. All my fun myspace friends have drifted there, but I can’t follow. Because my professional colleagues are all there. The social network collides with the serious/money network.

If you have a life where you can “just be yourself”… great. But it’s naive to think that it is my choice. Friends/family/colleagues are audiences. All good communications are targeted to the audience.

While FB has added some features, I want the networks themselves to be separate. It’s not just what I post either… it’s what my friends post.

Cmm Charity (user link) says:

Facebook blocks sucks

We’ve been having problems from day one adding friends at our Facebook site. When we login, a list of people are automatically suggested for us to add. However, when we try to send friend requests to them, we immediately get a notice that we’re engaging in an “unacceptable” activity, and before we could blink, our account is blocked. This is annoying. If it is unacceptable to add the suggested people in the list, why is Facebook suggesting them? We’re thinking of deleting our account and to stop recommending Facebook. Myspace is 1000% better and more fun and they have even made so many nice improvements lately. We highly recommend them. Facebook seems to be not only arrogant but unfriendly and devious. And that speaks volumes for a social networking site where you are supposed to be making friends.

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