Monday, June 17, 2013

Whatever you do - DON'T LOOK ON THE INTERNET! - Part 3

There’s a problem in social networking. It’s a result of the internet reaching maturity, and along with it some of us getting older, too. I first started messing about with the net in 1995, using newsgroups and email and the first inklings of web work with HTML1. No one dreamed of Facebook or other social media tools at that time. The technology wasn’t there to carry media rich content, and frankly too few people were connected to make it very interesting.

However, now the reverse is true. Every morning is started with platitudes and affirmation about how something something something will lead to something something something. Of course, this is accompanied with the inevitable picture of a kitten, lion or orangutan. Very inspiring.

Currently if one is not on Facebook, it seems to be because the very fact of not being on Facebook is a statement. For some it’s a reaction against the hours of time that can be swallowed looking at pictures of animals doing cute things, and for others it’s a response to the possibility that Facebook is going to share data with someone who wants to watch you doing not so cute things. The NSA has singlehandedly hobbled some US providers of web services (Facebook, Google, Linkedin and Microsoft), simply by making it clear (with PRISM) that, in a US jurisdiction, privacy is no longer an option. It’s going to be interesting to see if countries with more personal freedoms and protection of privacy, such as those in the European Union, become the development ground of new social networks and data systems, safe from the xenophobic antics of civil servants without regard for constitutional limitations. Regardless, the social network scene is ripe for radical change.

Of course, the irony here is that by not being on Facebook one creates the absence of a profile – which is in itself open to interpretation. To post nothing is almost as indicative as positing all your personal information, in terms of data modeling.

I asked a young member of staff (17), “How much time do you spend on Facebook?”

“Hardly any. You don’t know who’s reading your posts!”

“You mean the CIA? Come on!”

“Not the CIA.  Worse. My mom. I just put up posts about doing my homework and other stuff I know she’ll like.”

“Yeah... That's good cover. So what do you use for social connections?”

“Sometimes SnapChat, but mostly text messages. We all do that. It’s faster. Besides, Facebook is for old people.”

With large social media networks one is inundated with meaningless background chatter. The natural world deals with this quite well, making the call of individual birds sufficiently distinct for them to be able to identify mates and offspring in the cacophony of the forest chorus. They literally tune out the background noise to listen to conversations between members of their own species. My own expectation is that we will start to see something similar happening in social networks. We’re likely to see peer to peer social networks, with limited members. We’re also likely to see a growing shift towards social networks that rely not on the net, but on SMS and MMS messaging.

This reduces the background noise substantially, and increases the security. It reduces the marketing opportunities, but that may be a very good thing. To lose some marketing but gain relationships that mean something is a trade off we can all benefit from. After all, isn’t that what good marketing is about?