Monday, June 28, 2010

Less is More in Social Networking


It seems that sites like Facebook and MySpace are having problems with our Privacy.  Blogs are still a great way for people to share their life stories.  YouTube is king of showing the world a great video of something you saw.  Twitter is the way to keep friends and family up to date on what is going on that very moment.  However, it seems that the more we try to be “social” on most social networks, the more we open ourselves to privacy issues.  Is to much info becoming a problem?  What seems to be the route we can see before us that proves that Less is indeed More?  Does Twitter have it right?  And has most popular social networks got it completely wrong?

It seems to me that most of the popular social network sites are all about games.  You can not go to your Facebook wall without a bombardment of “achievements” your friends have made in a game, while asking you to join them.  Games like Mafia Wars are more about popularity contests that actual skill or work.  The higher number of “friends” you have, the better chances you have at accomplishing goals.  Not all games on Facebook and MySpace are like that, though.  Farmville does demonstrate a level of actual play.  You don’t need a slew of friends to accomplish most goals, but having friends to send “gifts” to help build things does help.

These sites all seem to want you to fill out details, though.  It is almost to the point of wanting you to put your most intimate details on your profile for the world to see.  If you don’t fill it all out, you get little messages telling you that you forgot some details.  You try to ignore them, but they pop up from time to time.  If you are anything like me, you hate filling out forms like these “half way”.  Some put in false information, just to fill it out.  Others just put up with the “reminders”.  Others put it up, then lock it away, however not everyone knows how to do that.  Facebook and MySpace don’t go out of their ways to educate users how to make private information just that, private.  Facebook has a good idea with attempting social networking, but it feels almost more like social engineering.

We are no longer in an age where we are tethered directly to our desktop computers.  We have affordable laptops and netbooks.  We have iPads and Smartphones.  We are mobile.  We move around.  We want to share information without having to sit down and log onto a computer.  We want to pick up our phone and instantly connect.  Facebook and MySpace have decent apps, but Twitter gives us more connections.  It also shares less details on our profiles.  What information you share is what information you tweet.

Yes, Twitter has gotten some fire, like Google’s Buzz and Latitude, with openly sharing our location, but we can turn these off.  It is pretty straight forward and not hidden away in levels of privacy settings accessed by a small link.  Smart users know the benefit of such features.

I truly feel that Social Networks need to refocus.  Adopt the less is more mentality.  Don’t “remind” us that our profiles are partially filled out.  We know it isn’t “completed” because that is how we want it to be.  Let us connect how we want to connect.  If you want to be a social network, be one.  If you want to be a gaming site, be one.  If you want to be both, then get with the game makers and make games we can actually get into and enjoy.  Let us share what we want to share, when we want to, how we want to, where we want to.

If Facebook and MySpace want to push mobile social networking, they need to spruce up their apps and make them more featureful to match what their desktop browser counterparts can do.  If not, then sit back and watch sites like Twitter grow stronger and go beyond what you can do.

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