Facebook launched during my time in college.
I’ve told the story a number of times, but a neighbor and friend in the dorms came into my room one afternoon and said:
We’re getting Facebook.
Obviously I had no idea what he was talking about, but that moment has always stuck with me. I think it’s stuck with me for a number of reasons, but one big reason was how quickly Facebook took over our campus.
It seemed like within a few months that 99% of the students had a profile and were sharing all kinds of information about themselves.
Technology has allowed us to share all kinds of details about our lives. Business. Personal. Everything.
The Idea of Privacy
In an article from ten years ago Psychology Today wrote about The Privacy Paradox.
At some level we value privacy. We want to shield ourselves from the rest of the world.
But it also appears that our human need to connect with others overpowers the need for privacy. And it’s easy to see this occurring on social media and anywhere online today.
As we strive to connect with others we’re willing to go to great lengths. We’ll post any thought that crosses our mind. We’ll post any photo of ourselves just for a little bit of attention and interaction with others.
Real World Connections
One thing I’ve noticed also in the real world is that if you close your mouth when you’re around other people they will tell you a surprisingly large amount of information about themselves.
And another unique thing is that people at times won’t even really listen to each other. They’ll kind of compete in a way to tell each other the most about themselves.
I don’t know if this has always been going on. I’m trying to think back to my life before AOL Messenger and Facebook. I think people still were very willing to tell all kinds of information about themselves. I don’t think it’s just something that’s happened post-Facebook.
But I remember in the early days of Facebook that Zuckerberg would talk about the idea of privacy and transparency. I might be misremembering, but I think he realized people’s willingness to connect and really thought of that as the core of what Facebook was all about.
A Privacy Example on Twitter
Twitter has something fairly new on the main feed. They will include tweets that others have liked. So if I’m following you and you like a tweet I will see the tweet and see that you liked it.
It’s kind of weird. I’ll wonder why I’m seeing a tweet from National Geographic even though I don’t follow their account. I’ll think it’s an ad, but then I’ll see that my wife just liked one of their tweets that included a cute koala bear or something.
But what I have also noticed is that when I see what others have liked that it can alter my perspective on that person. The more you know the more you can determine if the other person is something you want to associate with.
I can see this becoming important for just about everyone.
Determining close friendships.
Determining close family relationships.
Determining the people you hire. The businesses you partner with. The colleagues you team with on projects.
And from a consumer’s perspective it also could impact the brands you buy from and associate with.
We all have freedom of association. We now have the tools to know more about others and it can help us determine our associations.
Final Takeaway: Act As If…
People see everything you do online.
It’s best to assume that every email, tweet, post or whatever will be seen by anyone and everyone at some point.
Now, I don’t know if that’s right or wrong, but it’s reality.
And I also don’t know if it means that we should hide who we are or anything like that.
The choice is if you are comfortable with people knowing everything about you. Maybe that’s good. Maybe that’s the best thing.
I don’t know.
We seem to have a human need to connect. But we also sometimes seem to expect a certain level of privacy.
But we can’t have both in today’s world.
Act as if others know what you’re doing online. Every action. Not just what you post or say. But what you like. What websites you visit. The emails you view.
That’s a little scary, but it can also be very freeing.