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The Impact of Social Networking on Society 115

Anonymous Pingu writes "The latest edition of New Scientist has a series of features on social networking. These include an analysis of the impact on our social attitudes by Sherry Turkle, a feature on the possible privacy implications of using sites like MySpace and Friendster, and a short science fiction piece by Bruce Sterling. It's certainly interesting that so many people post very revealing stuff about themselves on these sites."
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The Impact of Social Networking on Society

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  • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @10:05AM (#16145612)
    I know it's cliche to say that you shouldn't post very embrassing things about yourself online (employers don't like to read "hey, I get like... totally wasted and have drug-addled gay sex with my best friend every friday!"), but it is a problem. If you go for a sensitive position, they will do a background check and you can kiss getting a security clearance goodbye with half of what often gets put on these sites. Yes, just write off your ability to possibly get anything above a confidential clearance.

    On the bright side, maybe we will end up either weeding out a whole lot of future potential politicians, or make things so open that "colorful people" can get into office. Works for me either way!
  • by hellfire ( 86129 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [vdalived]> on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @10:13AM (#16145665) Homepage
    I'm one of those people who wishes I could throw all my personal information out there for people to look at and either admire or ignore. I could care less what people think of me, but the problem is that then people judge me and change how they treat me based on this information. People are constantly judging, and they are judging based off of thousands of criteria, most of which don't have a real impact on how one would deal with me. Be nice, be fair, don't bigoted against me, judge the issue at hand with the facts I have laid out, and we'll get along great.

    I understand that to get through the world you have to play the politics game, learn how to schmooze people, and keep the private things private. I'm just sick and tired of it. Most of the people who post this information I think are similar in this regard. I want to tell the world about me, but I don't want to be judged, I just want to be seen for who I am.

    But other people aren't that way, and most of us "blunt" type people have to learn the hard way that the rest of society judges us, and the judge us on all the wrong things. That's what happens, you post some personal information, describe yourself, and things go well when people you want to see you see you, but then when a bunch of people you don't know see you, and you find out these people are important to your job, that's when stupid shit starts to happen and you learn that it wasn't as smart as you thought.

    Basically people treat the internet like a social club or a singles bar. They have to realize that it's the world... the entire world... who can see who you are. And that's the part that sucks, that not everyone thinks like you, and you have to get smart and take your page down or severely limit your posted information.
  • by dominion ( 3153 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @10:47AM (#16145895) Homepage
    If I've said it once, I've said it a million times: One of the biggest things holding social networking back is that people still have this conception of it that is very reminiscent of a 1996 Wired Magazine article. That it's all very cool and hip and revolutionary.

    Social networking isn't gonna get anywhere until people everywhere see it as a basic tool, no more, no less. You don't see kids bragging about their email address, do you? Why are teenagers acting the fool [myspace.com] over the fact that they have a myspace?

    I've been working on a distributed social networking software called Appleseed (at Sourceforge [sourceforge.net], and a test site at Appleseedproject.org [appleseedproject.org]. The idea is to distribute social networking across an infinite number of sites, all of which can communicate with each other flawlessly. Basically, taking the decentralized theory of the internet, and applying it to social networking software.

    One of the effects I think this will have, is that a lot of people will join social networking sites who might be normally turned off by a monolothic cesspool such as MySpace. Ridiculous hipsters can have their site, and people who don't suck could have their own site, and someone who doesn't suck could still maintain a relationship with their hipster "friend" so that they can hear where the parties are without having to wear girls jeans and have a haircut [llnwd.net] that proves [llnwd.net] that the world has no sense [llnwd.net] of decency [llnwd.net].

    Yes, this means that your uncle and your mom and your cousin and even maybe your grandparents are gonna be do the whole social networking thing. Luckily, Appleseed has a lot of privacy options, so you can hide your BDSM Leninist Reading Group from your family.

    One of the effects of the "uncooling" of social networking, I think, will be that people recognize that you're not hanging out at 80's night at the local club, or chilling with your friends at a private party. You're broadcasting your life to the whole damn world. Once I think people realize that, I think the absurd and abnormal social habits that social networking creates are going to quickly disappear.

    At the very least, I sincerely hope so.
  • Re:The Social Stigma (Score:3, Interesting)

    by inviolet ( 797804 ) <slashdot@ideasma ... g minus caffeine> on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @10:54AM (#16145956) Journal
    The social stigma is somewhat warranted. True, there is nothing wrong with meeting someone online, but many of these people fail to realize that they truely don't know someone if they've only communicated via text or voice. Half of human communication is visual...

    The reverse could also be true. Because there isn't any visual communication, people become more honest and more revealing about the rest of themselves.

    It could well be that the visual component triggers the 'project the desired image' algorithm in our minds, which can only muddy the water when trying to get to know somebody.

  • by danpsmith ( 922127 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @11:00AM (#16146023)
    When you are able to physically distance yourself from the physical aspect of things (you know actually talking to someone), many people seem to be able to overcome their inhibitions.

    This is definitely true, and is probably the reason I spent most of my socializing time on the computer earlier on in life. There's no present danger on the computer, you can say what you like and inhibitions go by the way side. However, in a way you are seriously just avoiding your fears of rejection or fears of whatever else that might be holding you back instead of exploring your personality with others in a concrete sense. You might be able to blab to someone all day online, but if you have no personality in real life due to these social inhibitions being present as you say "actually talking to someone" then you learn nothing and you improve nothing. Hell, even if you meet someone online you are liable to be socially awkward when you meet them in real life then, even if you have established common ground.

    People underestimate how much "being an introvert" in most cases really has to do with a decrease in quality of life, and meeting people or having an "online life" is never really avoiding these factors. It might make okay training wheels, but in the end you have to be able to balance yourself in real life.

    It's a lonely world out there unless you get over your inhibitions (at least for a man), so avoiding this transformation is simply wasting your time.

  • Well... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Broken scope ( 973885 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @11:10AM (#16146126) Homepage
    I'm an online social hermit.

    My facebook account has 20 friends globally. I know met all but 2 of them face to face, and those 2 i have had long running philisophical debates with.

    I would rate myself as a mildy attractive, guy. I stay in shape and i brush my teeth. I tended to get 10 to 15 friend requests a week from people i never met, who couldn't be bothered to even attach a "Hi" message. Occasionally some of them were the "hey wanna hook up?". Most of which I denied and at one point it really pissed of some folks who tried repeatedly.

    I found it really funny that once i removed an actual picture of myself on face book, they few little hey want to be my friend things went down to maybe 1 or 2 a week and suddenly they were accompanied by friendly and intelligent messages. Some of these people are now really close friends.

    i think the stigma comes from the percieved quality of the friend, most of them seem to be just seem to be another name on the friends list. i know some people who only feel good if they get a friend invite, my roomate gets like that sometimes, facebook becomes the center of his social life to the point where he doesn't leave the room to socialize, he just uses facebook.
  • by ajs318 ( 655362 ) <sd_resp2.earthshod@co@uk> on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @11:30AM (#16146297)
    I had an idea that social networking information might be highly valuable to corrupt governments. With some social networking data about each citizen, and a draconian Digital restrictions Management scheme, democracy can be laid to rest once and for all. Elections can be held in which every citizen can verify their own vote in a published list -- yet the final result of the election was decided before a ballot was cast.

    Why post-election verifiability is meaningless
    or, how even an open ballot can be subverted

    A government already in power is in the ideal position to subvert an election even where every registered voter votes (zero abstentions), even in spite of receipts and even in spite of the existence of a published list of everyone's name, address and who voted for whom (hereinafter The Big List). The Big List is -- or at least will be spun as being -- highly sensitive information. There won't be any paper copies anywhere, in case they get stolen by foreign terrorists or direct marketers. You will be grudgingly allowed to look at it, strictly for the purpose of verifying that your own vote is correct. Don't expect for a second that it won't be protected by Digital Restrictions Management: you won't be able to print or save it without violating the EUCD or US DMCA. Anyway, possession of a hard copy could be made a separate offence in its own right (since it might be used to discriminate against people in illegal ways; also, it's information that might be useful to terrorists, or some such).

    All it would take is (1) for The Big List to be made available only online, with Digital Restrictions Management technology, and accessible only via the use of a personal "security code" in order to "ensure that sensitive information is not misused"; and (2) for a combination of intrusive and less-intrusive surveillance measures to be used to determine everyone's Social Network (i.e. who their friends, relations and work colleagues are).

    Run the election as normal and count the votes fairly. If your chosen candidate wins, stop right now. If anyone else wins, you need to adjust the figures just enough to create a favourable result which incorporates a sufficient majority to be unlikely to be challenged.

    Now, when a voter logs on to see the results, they see a subtly altered version of The Big List. Their own vote is rendered accurately, as are the votes of everyone in their Social Network. The only votes altered are those of people outside the visitor's Social Network.

    In other words, I might log in to see The Big List and see that my ex-coal-miner grandad voted for Labour (the winners), my posh aunt voted Conservative (the party who actually polled the most votes), and that dippy tart with the blue hair who lives in my street voted for the Green party -- exactly as I would have expected. To make the figures fit, a lot of Conservative votes will have to be changed to Labour votes. But on the version of the record that I am seeing -- and remember, they know it's me seeing it because of my personal security code -- all the changed votes came from people who, according to the Social Networks database, are strangers to me. Someone else might very likely log in and see my aunt as having voted Labour; but not if, according to the Social Networks database, they know me or her.

    If a friend is with me when I check my vote, they will see their vote recorded correctly -- unless The Authorities don't know of our friendship and their vote happens to be one of the ones that get altered. Still, when they get home and check it on their own computer, it will show up right. If they call The Authorities and make it successfully through the "press one if ....., press two if ....." menus, they will be asked for their details, told the correct vote and that my computer must have been faulty, and probably believe that. If they later check on another friend's computer, and that other friend is properly listed as a k
  • Re:The Social Stigma (Score:2, Interesting)

    by afeeney ( 719690 ) on Wednesday September 20, 2006 @12:07PM (#16146609)
    Another issue is that the traditional way of meeting a mate was through friends, schools, and physical social networks, so potential mates came more or less recommended or at least pre-approved. Meeting, courtship, and mating were almost entirely community functions that had a high community stake in success. We weren't fully conscious of our stake in their marriage and almost inevitable child-rearing, but we were aware that "good" marriages and families are an important part of our community's success.

    Meeting online is more or less depriving the community of having a say, making a part-communal, part-individual function entirely individual. It's also possible that in a time where instead of involving marriage and children, many relationships and families involve neither, communities are adjusting to that, as well, the total redefinition of a family as being a contract between two individuals who do what pleases them, with less regard to traditional expectations of marriage and children.

Trap full -- please empty.