Got Social?

When is a friend a friend

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how and when to allow someone into a specific network.  I know the word ‘allow’ carries some of its own baggage, but that truly is what we do – it often even says “allow” on the request.  When this whole dustup happened with Facebook, everyone was griping (including me) that the FB folks were “allowing” others to see information we did not want them to.  Technology, and specifically security, is all about “allowing” or “permissions”.  Permissions are often toggle type settings written into code and are at the very basis of everything we do.

Has this person presented the right credentials (user name and password) to authenticate to this site?  Yes – allow.  No – do not allow.

With social networking moving at the just sub-light speed it has been for the last few years, we have started to develop within us a set of “permissions” based on the networks we interact with.  Do you have the same criteria for who you follow (or block) on Twitter as you do on Facebook or Linked In?  Probably not and you probably should not because each tool serves a different purpose.

When I get a notification that someone has followed me on Twitter I look at their profile to see if there is something they are posting that I’d like to follow back.  Many times, although interesting, I have to make a choice as to who to follow back because there are just too many options and  information is wildly fluid and difficult to keep up with on Twitter.  Yes, Twitter’s lists have helped, and some 3rd party vendors help manage this.  But the amount of work to manage this needs to be proportionate with the benefit.  I’ve found Twitter to be a much better information spout than pail, and great to keep up with what is going on in real-time.  For this reason, I’m not at all picky about who follows me and open, within reason, of who I follow back.

Facebook is another story.  I must have some kind of connection with the person I friend on Facebook.  The more personal the connection the more likely I am to accept the connection request.  I’ve even gone through and unfriended some folks who I had no personal connection with – folks I’d let in when my Facebook network was smaller and FB was better about their privacy issues.  Since I know that the folks at FB have a habit of mishandling privacy issues, I keep as little private information on FB as possible, but use it as a connection tool to those I have a personal connection with.  If something else were to come along, and address my needs, I’d consider a phased switch.

LinkedIn is an even tighter network for me.  When you sign up, and in several places around the site, the folks at LI tell you how important it is when you get connected to someone.  They suggest that we should  ”Thoughtfully select those people you know and trust because these are the people you will seek advice from and request Recommendations about your/other’s quality of work. Because of this, the quality of your connections is always more important than the quantity of connections. It is important you know your connections because you may be asked to recommend one of your connections to another. If you know little about the connection you weaken the integrity of the Recommendation and your network.” (citation).  I take this advice very seriously and only allow into my  LI network those who I have some work experience with.

Any other social networks I’m a member of, I typically don’t spend my time “tending” to them.  Usually I signed up for an account as research, so when someone asks me why Facebook is better than MySpace, I can tell them (which is actually part of my job).  In order to update all of my statuses (or would that be stati), I use a service called  I simple tell Ping what networks I’m a part of – I then post to Ping and Ping goes out and updates all my networks for me.  Easy Peasy.

Ok, i didn’t just say “easy peasy” in a blog post. [blink blink] Yeah, I did.

How do you decide?  Do you even think about it? Do you have your own rules of etiquette for your interactions in various social applications? How important is it that we pay attention to this?  If we’re in education, and using technology in a classroom, are should these types of thinking be included in the learning objectives?  If we are going to require these technology, how much is it our responsibility to make sure students know how to interact with them responsibly?