Whoops, I didn’t mean for you to read this

As the line between social media and privacy continues to erode, I often think about these words by Gabriel García Márquez, “Everyone has three lives: a public life, a private life, and a secret life.” Sometimes in social media, we intentionally or often, unintentionally, blur the lines between who we are (outward facing), who we are (introspectively), and who we want to be.

A recent example of such a mistake is when former U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner accidentally published a direct message as a live Tweet. Suddenly, his public, private and secret lives were one and unfortunately (or fortunately) his once separated worlds were introduced to one another with devastating effect. With reference to Dr. Egon Spengler from Ghostbusters, we must be careful not to cross the streams.

This happens every day. Whether we admit it or not, the truth is that just like in real life, our actions and words that we share online affect how people see us. It’s the discrepancy in how others see us and how we see ourselves that begins to create the potential for confusion and conflict online that ultimately affects the value of our digital persona or brand. And, this is why Facebook’s more “open” Open Graph launched at the recent f8 event is something you and 800 million other people need to think deeply about before the new Facebook Timeline is unveiled.

Ignorance is Bliss Until It’s Not

Dave Winer published a post that is reverberating through the web and the hacker/developer communities. His title says everything, “Facebook is scaring me.”

Dave’s perspective is honest and it represents the type of thinking that will benefit most Facebook users…

“Every time they make a change, people get angry. I’ve never myself been angry because I have always assumed everything I post to Facebook is public. That the act of putting something there, a link, picture, mini-essay, is itself a public act. This time, however, they’re doing something that I think is really scary, and virus-like. What clued me in was an article on ReadWriteWeb that says that just reading an article on their site may create an announcement on Facebook.”

To be clear, what Facebook is introducing will profoundly change and improve the experience of social networking. Mark Zuckerberg refers to this as “frictionless sharing” which encourages “real-time serendipity.” But with social media comes great responsibility and it is now up to each one of us to be incredibly aware of what we interact with online as it may trigger an automated update to your social graph. Let’s take a minute to review what exactly the new Facebook Open Graph will and will not do.

First, Facebook observed that asking people to manually Like, Share, or Comment on content requires an extra step that actually inhibits sharing and interaction. Rather than introduce changes to the buttons, it will simply change the technical framework for apps within Facebook so that rather than requiring you to click to share, comment or express sentiment, the app automatically broadcasts a status update for you. For example, with the new Facebook and Spotify integration, simply listening to music automagically updates my News Feed (eventually my timeline). Depending on how much interaction it triggers, that activity may also show up in your News Feed.

At f8, the Washington Post introduced Social Reader, an app that produces a custom “Front Page” based on what I read and what my friends are reading in the app. If I stay on a story for longer than say 30 seconds, an update is sent to my stream alerting my social graph as to what currently has my attention.

Apps will be based on action verbs to entice those who follow you to follow suit. Soon your timeline will be rich with words including…

Read
Listened to
Watched
Loved
Enjoyed
Ate


Andy Samberg on stage at f8 impersonating Mark Zuckerberg

Learn and Teach

Before you panic, the sky isn’t falling. The new Facebook isn’t monitoring and broadcasting your actions simply by logging in. People will not leave Facebook en masse. At the heart of the matter, we are talking about a new class of intelligent apps based on the revamped Open Graph platform where developers can integrate sharing into your interaction. As you install each app, you MUST explicitly give it permission to update your Timeline. No app can update your Timeline without your unequivocal consent.  The better apps will of course offer transparency in how exactly your Timeline will be updated and why it is advantageous for you to do so.

This is where things get serious. Just because you opt-in doesn’t mean that your mindful of all you do within these apps and what’s shared with everyone while you’re caught up in each moment. As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. Here, it’s looking forward that counts and a new mindset is absolutely necessary as we begin to navigate the new Facebook EGOsystem. Without a thoughtful approach, it’s now easier than ever before to share actions or content without intending to do so. Think about it for a moment, your actions will speak as loud or louder than your words as each contribute to a semblance of who you are.

Indeed, privacy as we knew it is dead. It is now something that we have to learn and teach. Your privacy settings in Facebook are yours to manage. But, to do so takes initiative and an understanding that like your credit score, what you share online requires definition and reinforcement. Remember, what works against us also works for us. We’re essentially adding a layer of thoughtfulness in our social networking to better tell our story and also enjoy the stories of others.

As mentors, parents, teachers, and good social denizens, it’s up to us to help another while taking responsibility for what we do and say online. At the end of the day, we can’t blame Facebook or developers when those whom we care about change how they see us.

For brands and developers that embrace frictionless sharing to trigger real-time serendipity, please remember that your long-term success is based on our experiences and the impressions we share with others. Your marketing, product description, opt-in message, and the verbs that you choose to represent out activity, each represent an opportunity for transparency and education. Brands, it may also be time to update your social media policy and also send an alert on how Frictionless Sharing affects engagement.

The future of social networking is indeed rooted in shared experiences and in the end, we earn the attention, engagement, relationships, and relevance we earn. Everything starts with understanding everything about the power of newfound social sharing that lays before us.


UPDATE: Facebook denies cookie allegations

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Photo Credit: (cc) Jesse Stay, additional pictures available here.

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  • Ylipinsky

    Good post. It is true. Privacy has been withering in that past few years… Great stuff in here. Thanks Brian

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Cheers!

  • http://twitter.com/BritFitzpatrick Brittany Fitzpatrick

    This is by far the most thoughtful post I’ve read on the new Facebook timeline. Thank you for sharing! You make an excellent point that a more open system increases our accountability. 

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Brittany, thank you. We have much to learn and think about.

  • KurtyD

    I just deactivated my Facebook account. I don’t trust it anymore. I’ll stick with Twitter for now. I guess my Mom will have to learn how to use Twitter now to stay in touch with me online. 

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Kurty, it’s a different platform now…I’m learning to find its advantages. What’s clear is that like NBC, CBS, and ABC, I find value in each of top social channels, Facebook, Tiwtter and Google Plus. Hope you’re well my friend.

  • http://www.mikeraffensperger.com Mike Raffensperger

    Thanks for a tempered and intelligent deconstruction, Brian. This really is a new day for the social web. It will be scary to some and liberating for others.

    I’ve long been of two minds on the topic. We’ve worn our social masks for so long – far longer than the the web, let alone the social web has been around – it’s going to be hard to let our collective hair down. But the potential benefits are inspiring and could lead to an incredible, innovative future.

    I for one, am in.

    It even inspired me to write my own personal experience with this new, open and social world – Zuckerberg was Right, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Boss – http://bit.ly/nOAG9W

  • Anonymous

    Social media is such a great concept, but I agree, it is getting a little scary. The line between personal and private is closer to non-existent than ever. 

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  • http://www.socialmediapowered.com Patrick Cummings

    Great article. I for one am enjoying the advanced engagement opportunities. Learning will occur first. I think some people will keep their Facebook experience as it is today, while others will engage the larger ecosystem of users and open sharing.

  • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

    Cheers Lincoln. Here’s an interesting response to Nik’s post: https://www.facebook.com/dannysullivan/posts/174055126007956

  • http://twitter.com/stasiaweb Annastasia Webster

    This is a horrible idea, IMO. If I don’t share something manually on Facebook its usually not because its too hard or because its an extra step – it’s because I either don’t think its worth sharing or don’t want to share it. I count on my friends to discriminate in what they share as well. Once sharing is done automatically, the clutter increases exponentially and Facebook becomes even less useful. 

    • http://www.briansolis.com briansolis

      Annastasia, in Timeline not everything you interact with will broadcast your activity, only the apps that you install and give explicit approval to do so. In turn, not everything your friends do will appear in your feed either. They’re trying to create a more interactive storyline through context. I’m definitely paying attention to see what works and what doesn’t work and will share my thoughts along the way.

  • http://www.facebook.com/seadf Sead Fadilpašić

    I don’t need an app to share this story. Good read

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  • Anonymous

    Brian, I think you sailed right through the scylla and carbides on this one. Watchfulness. But not alarm. Attention to a shift in the (sometimes invisible) gears of culture.

  • http://twitter.com/koningwoning Eric Woning

    Hi Brian, the reason I am afraid of this kind of thing is because of this: http://getsatisfaction.com/spotify/topics/can_you_sign_up_for_spotify_without_facebook – look at the reponse of Spotify: you cannot get a spotify account anymore if you don’t have Facebook. Why? because otherwise you cannot share your music and that’s how they want to attract new users.

    I love Spotify, but am very scared of frictionless sharing – especially because tools / sites etc. will force you to use it if you want to use their content.

  • http://www.ddmcd.com Dennis D. McDonald

    Personally, I would prefer that folks make a conscious decision about whether or not to share something with me; the information/event/photo will mean a lot more if I know that there is actually some thought and consideration behind the sharing.

  • http://twitter.com/tmadel tmadel

    Brian, you are right – as we strive to raise engagement (and all the benefits that entails), we do have to sacrifice some personal privacy.  Facebook seems to be leaning towards putting everything out there and let folks figure out what is valuable.  The reason:  they need to have as much informationas possible so they can sell it to advertisers/brands.  It’s hard to trust an organization whose primary motive is to make money by selling advertising- the telephone was a huge advanced forward in sharing information and building community and people were willing to pay for that service – they saw the value.

    Think if instead of paying a monthly telephone bill, we allowed the phone companies to eavesdrop on our conversations and then target ads at us based on the content.  I doubt many people would go for it…..

    That’s basically what Facebook is doing.  I wonder how many people would find value in Facebook if they had to pay $15/month to have access AND complete control over who sees their information.

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  • http://twitter.com/VT_emontana Enrico Montana

    Brian– As always, thanks for the informative post.  I’m definitely in the “wait and see” camp, as the future possibilities lend themselves to at least try concepts like this before not doing them altogether.  We, as consumers, all need to educate ourselves about where and when our own information is going public.  As long as there’s transparency between the social network and the communities they support, we can all learn how to push the boundaries through technology without giving up any individual’s right to remain as public or private as they see fit.

  • http://twitter.com/VT_emontana Enrico Montana

    Brian– As always, thanks for the informative post.  I’m definitely in the “wait and see” camp, as the future possibilities lend themselves to at least try concepts like this before not doing them altogether.  We, as consumers, all need to educate ourselves about where and when our own information is going public.  As long as there’s transparency between the social network and the communities they support, we can all learn how to push the boundaries through technology without giving up any individual’s right to remain as public or private as they see fit.

  • http://twitter.com/aaronlintz Aaron Lintz

    Not loving this concept and it brings up several privacy and security concerns.  Social reader in particular could be  harmful.  Taking away the right to opt-out could be a deal breaker for me.

  • Ryansauers

    Brian, this is a great post and thank you for writing it. It is a story that many need to understand and I am going to share.  All my best, Ryan Sauers @ryansauers

  • Elivela67

    I can personally say this, I will say adios to FB eventually just because of this oversharing feature. I don’t want everyone to know everything I’m doing at any given moment nor do I want to know the same about my friends. SO MUCH NOISE! I don’t have a huge number of friends but I have enough. I can’t imagine all of this chatter. I think there is a point where most reasonable people will balk at what FB is doing and I think they are nearing the tipping point – at least for me. People may not leave en masse but once their lives get “blended” too many times, I suspect the dribs and drabs of those abandoning will add up.

    • Itsreallyonlyme2

      As I mentioned before, it is not that at all…this sharing stuff goes into the Ticker that everyone was complaining about so wildly…very little of it shows on the page in the feed itself.

  • http://twitter.com/seantoomey Sean Toomey

    Nice going, Brian. Well thought out and well stated.

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ABOUT ME

Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. In 2009, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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