Posted October 3, 2011 8:16 am by with 2 comments

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I often wonder where services like Facebook do their research to make moves like the recent overhaul of the service. I wonder if they are speaking to truly representative cross-sections of ALL users or if the service is really being built for the youngest users. Is Facebook simply ignoring the social habits and desires of a rather larger portion of their user base for the foreseeable future?

Why am I bothering even asking these questions? Well, a post over at paidContent titled “Facebook-Spotify Love-In Over-Estimated Users’ Social Lives” made me wonder about some assumptions we seem to be making about Facebook, in particular.

For instance, whenever Facebook does something major to the service there is significant user backlash for a couple of weeks. This is as expected as the sun being in the sky. No problem. People are frustrated with life in general and as they try to add something to their existence through Facebook they feel they have a right to gripe when a change is made. No harm no foul really since it always seems to go back to “business as usual” with regard to the service in short order and bad memories are buried like most Facebook updates.

This time, however, there is a lot of talk about Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of sharing and it seems as if all of these new offerings are predicated on the idea that everyone wants to share just about everything all the time unless they want to take the time to edit lists of friends and keep track of whatever they are telling one group or another.

Robert Andrews points out in the paidContent piece

But, this time, Facebook and its new BFF, Spotify, seem to have significantly misjudged their consumers’ response to their more granular actions being shared. And this week that has earned Spotify its first significant PR dent in what has been a stellar run.

Long before Facebook’s Timeline and new media apps were conceived, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek had already imagined a world in which users would share links to his service’s songs. “Music is the most social object there is,” Ek had said.

Mark Zuckerberg, whose zeal for electronic sharing now borders on the religious, was just the man to execute that vision. “All your stories, all your life,” he told the F8 audience. “No activity is too big or too small to share.”

But many users this week – even some amongst the super-connected pro-social sharing club – have drawn a line in the sand as Facebook and its new media partners have enabled this more detailed sharing. So it is now possible to wonder whether the share-everything mantra expected of users by web developers is really as inevitable as Silicon Valley thinks.

It’s the last line that is starting to seem like more of the reality than Mark Zuckerberg’s vision for the world where everything is shared. Of course, let’s remember that if indeed everything is shared then more data is known about everyone so advertisers can further hone in on the right targets using, you guessed it, Facebook ads. Based on that let’s just say that altruism is not likely at the top of Zuckerberg’s reasons for “Why everyone should share everything all the time” approach to life.

It’s as if the Silicon Valley set has forgotten some time tested axioms which while they sound dated have been sound bits of wisdom based on human behavior for quite some time now. One that comes to mind is “loose lips sink ships” which harkens back to what sailors would write in letters during World War II. They were told not to say anything about any operations for fear that their correspondence could be intercepted by the enemy and put everyone at risk.

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Of course, sharing on Facebook is not a life and death matter usually so the example is a bit extreme. However, we do live in a new age of character assassination, which is being aided by social networks. It’s a time where more and more information is available to know about everyone and has created more opportunities than ever before for less scrupulous folks to inflict harm on whatever target they choose. The more ammo you give them the easier their job could be.

I realize that much of this could sound very “conspiracy theory-ish” but I am finding that exercising a fair amount of paranoia in the new world age of sharing is probably not a bad tactic. It’s becoming more and more clear that the social edicts being sent off Mount Facebook down to the mere mortal users of their services are cleverly packaged to make us think that they know just what we are thinking and how we are thinking it.

I know that personally Facebook has missed the mark on my desire to share in almost every instance. Rather than complain, however, I just work my way around the best I can and alter my usage level of the service to match my “buy in” on Mark Zuckerberg’s vision for my social media future.

I don’t think much is going to change in the immediate future. Social media users, for the most part, will plod along like pigs to the slaughterhouse as long as they are being fed along the way. I doubt very much that most people think about sharing too much. Facebook banks on this.

I am wondering more and more though if the masses are simply buying into a very personal view of what should be done (Mark Zuckerberg’s) that is being promoted to make Facebook more money rather than being done to really help end users.

In the end shouldn’t there be limits to sharing? Are you really that interested in sharing everything you do (or have done) with everyone? Be honest. Let’s hear your thoughts on this concept of “sharing it all” is the best way to go. Do you buy it or are you selling it?

  • Cynthia Boris

    The bottom line is, if you don’t want to share, don’t join Facebook. Don’t put your profile on social networks. I feel like people often approach Facebook as if it’s required. It may feel like it, but it’s not. If you’re worried about privacy, then stay off the net.

  • Trish Frizzell

    Good article. I don’t buy-in to the “all or nothing” theory of social. Using social does not mean I wish to share my entire life and social and the internet at large certainly does not mean that I have to – that’s simply the direction Facebook has taken. Facebook is not the entire world of social. As Facebook does matter to it’s users, they voice their concerns with it as they should. It’s up to Facebook to listen if they wish to keep those users.