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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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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