spiritual self-exploration through health, fitness, and nutrition

Posts tagged ‘facebook’

Friendship or Acquaintanceship?

rron598l1I stumbled across a classmate’s blog post about Facebook and the boundaries of friendship, which she responded in relation to this article by Frederic Lardinois.

Earlier in the semester, we had a discussion on what the definition of a “friend” is and where we draw the line. It didn’t really impact me at the time, because I thought I was just expanding my network of old college friends, colleagues, and family. I never add anybody I don’t know. Plus, I may need to keep some of these “friends” just in case I need to contact them in the future about something that they are an involved with (e.g., concert promotions, activity partners, etc.). However, after a recent conversation with an immediate family member, this topic came up. She told me that having nearly 600 friends and 81 groups “does not fit the boundaries of logical thinking, no matter how you justify it.” Another family member backed her up by saying:

‘Friend’ has a different meaning in Iranian culture compared to the Facebook terminology (or the English language). The word (doost=friend) is basically used to refer to someone that you dearly care for. In the context that the word gets used here, it refers to (aashena=someone you know).

At first, I was naturally offended by their comments. Did they not know that I categorize each friend and that I don’t hold each under the same light? I’ve even gone out of my way to edit my privacy settings so that certain people can see only certain parts of my profile. Strangers can’t see my profile at all. On Wikipedia’s “Friendship” page, “Internet Friendship” is even defined as a category of friendship.

So… what was the problem?

I let their comments sink in for a few days and read some blogs about the topic. It all became clearer to me. I remember the first true social networking site I ever joined was Friendster back in 2002/2003. My intention was purely to reconnect with old friends from high school, etc. Then MySpace came along and, while I was very careful about the type of content I was posting, I did not have a filter on who I accepted as a “friend.” I think this is where my perception of the word had evolved into something different than what I’ve always known. Acquaintanceship and Friendship had become one and the same.

Of course, after some creepy stalker-ish incidents on MySpace, I deleted everyone I didn’t know, and went back to basics. I stick with the same rule now as I always have; don’t add if I don’t know. But after conversations with my family and reading my classmate’s blog post, I think I am going through another realization. Maybe it’s time I re-evaluate who I really care about and don’t care about on Facebook; maybe I need to stop being such a pack rat! 🙂

As my classmate so eloquently stated: “…I find it annoying to receive news feed information on someone I casually know, or would not skip a beat in life if I didn’t hear from them over an extended period of time.”

A Bill of Rights for the Social Web?

Should social web sites adhere to certain codes of conduct in the best interest of their users? I, for one, believe that this is a great idea, but one that would be quite challenging to uphold.

On September 5, 2007, Marc Canter (founder of Broadband Mechanics) and Joseph Smarr (head techie at Plaxo) teamed together to publish a “Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web.” In it, they lay out user “rights” specifically pertaining to ownership, control, and freedom of personal information. What I like best about this technological declaration is that they did not just sit down one day and carve these rules into stone; they presented the information in a blog-like format and opened it up for discussion, welcoming comments and suggestions.

With the dramatic expansion of social networking sites such Facebook and Myspace, it seems inevitable that someone would eventually come out and stand up for user rights. Besides, it would seem only natural that individuals who chose to present personal information about themselves would automatically expect a certain level of privacy, right?

Wrong.

Just last weekend, Facebook challenged these rights by publicly stating an adjustment in their terms of service. This caused quite a bit of commotion in the blogosphere. While it is uncertain how long this clause will last, this action has, in a way, opened up a can of worms. It is very likely that other networking sites will follow Facebook’s lead and take ownership of the data that is posted by their users. With the growing complexity and diversity of social networking sites, a part of me truly believes that this will be unavoidable.

People have debated the question of whether or not customer data belongs to the supplier, agency, or customer. While I agree with most that the customer should have full access rights to their own data, I am also a firm believer that the customer should take full responsibility of what they choose to post publicly. I came across these very useful tips (specifically for Facebook users) that allows the users to take matters into their own hands. While this does not completely stop Facebook from caching all your data, it enables the user to take better control of what is publicly viewable and what is kept private.

So, while a “Bill of Rights” can be useful, it would need to undergo constant evaluation since social networking sites are expanding at increasingly higher rates. Ultimately, it comes down to the users’ personal decisions.

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