Hello, Social Media Addiction; Goodbye, Privacy

If Foursquare wasn’t enough to meet the need for a new and shiny social media play-thing, there’s also lot of excitement in Blippy, which lets users publicly share their purchases – e.g Joe Smith just spent $18.85 at La Senza.

I’m a social create with a reasonably healthy appetite for sharing ideas, content and interesting Web services but I have a limited appetite when it comes to expanding into social networks beyond Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Flickr. I have tried Foursquare and taken a look at Blippy but my social plate is currently full.

The big question is how much social is enough. How many places do you need or want to share many or every aspect of your personal and professional lives? My take is that we’re living in a time when public is becoming the default while private is eroding, and that’s not entirely a good thing.

Take Blippy, for example. There are benefits to sharing your shopping activity – other people can see your purchases to help their own shopping decisions. But what’s really in it for Blippy users other than being seen as early users? What do they get from telling the world they spent $27.89 at iTunes? If this is the way we’re headed, it’s only a matter a time before someone launches Paybook, a new social network in which people publicly talk about how much money they make.

The bottom line is that social media and sharing everything with everyone is like a drug; the more services you use, the more you share. Before long, your private life disappears. Tweeting becomes addictive to the point where you’re doing it dozens of times a day without even thinking about it – it just becomes part of your very public existence.

Maybe I’m trying to live in two worlds – the new world of total disclosure, and the old world in which people actually had public and private lives. Maybe trying to bridge both worlds will have an impact on my digital brand but this balancing act feels like the right approach.

Update: In contrast to my pragmatic skepticism about new social media networks, Mashable has a breathlessly enthusiastic post about how Foursquare is “changing the world”. As well, here’s a good post from TechCrunch’s MG Siegler about the “social paradox” of location, and how the more people you follow on a service such as Foursquare, the less value it has. Siegler also has a post about a new desktop application for Foursquare called FoursquareX, which Foursquare “addicts” need to get “immediately”.

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  • Paul Marshall

    Good post Mark,

    I, like you, don't have an appetite for many of the newer services like foursquare, etc but I live on Twitter, blogs, etc. What I do have an interest in is what and how many of these new social services work. Many of these new services are now are exploring deeper into the domain of personal and social goings on and pushing the boundary of what some will accept and have an appetite to share. As the pendulum swings back towards center I think we will have a better understanding of what is 'possible' and can use that to craft better applications for people that have a truer meaning and value and operate within the boundaries of what most people will accept.

    Although I don't use them there is great value in all these applications and there is money to be made in leveraging all their teachings and developments. Pushing the boundaries and expanding the scope of what we CAN do we will serve us well in the future as it always has, the pendulum on social I think will swing back towards middle for the vast majority of people while the early adopters continue to explore new bounds.


  • @PhilBaumann

    Paul makes a good point about the pendulum. Perhaps the period we're in now is fleshing out the curiosities and possibilities with social media. And maybe we'll get to a point where we re-assess the relationship between public and private.

    I also think 2010 may be when internet addiction (or whatever you call "too much Twitter") becomes taken a bit more seriously. The thing with online communities were users may be addicted is this: mutual denial is reinforced via the media. Just a thought.

    Important points you make here, Mark..


  • @IceCreamMelts

    I see your point, but we all have choices. Some can choose to still use social media, but keep their networks private. It is up to the individual, but I LOVE the idea of sharing ideas and interacting with new people from different parts of the world.

    I actually tested this theory and held a Global Book Release Party for my new book, "Facebook Addiction: The Life & Times of Social Networking Anonymous.” The ability to connect so many people using Facebook, Twitter, Ustream, Blogtalk Radio etc was totally AMAZING !!!

    Release Party:
    More Info: