Facebook cautionary tales: When Hubs Collide

Last night I was at a meetup at TechSoup for Online Community professional types, and there was an engineer from Facebook on hand. People were talking about the desire to spam for good causes within Facebook versus various privacy questions, when somebody told a fascinating story from a user perspective.

She’d been logged into Facebook late, added a few friends and networks, dozed off on the couch, woke in the morning to see that she had connected the dots and outed a young man to key people in his home town, to his horror. Facebook networks are not always easy to grasp. “Chicago” as a network is not the same thing as a college campus.

She also said she never would put resume info or a work network up, despite working in a field where social networking is part of career life. For her, Facebook is a walled garden. Except that it’s not, so much.

This was an interesting case. Whenever you don’t know that you’ve just given permission for people to learn about your friends, networking gets most interesting and unpredictable. The outcome could be positive or negative, but the one making the connections has no idea what’s been opened up within the friends information permission architecture. You are not connecting friends, you are connecting friends of friends, or little sociogram hubs.  Each social networking platform behaves a little differently, and everyone’s in a hurry to fill out yet another profile and list of friends.

I asserted that by making mistakes, we will all get better at being semi-transparent, and learn to set instinctive limits for our candor. Not a recipe for disaster, and perhaps even a way to make the world more forgiving.

What a social experiment! What a time.