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Whoops, I didn’t mean for you to read this

As the line between social media and privacy continues to erode, I often think about these words by Gabriel García Márquez, “Everyone has three lives: a public life, a private life, and a secret life.” Sometimes in social media, we intentionally or often, unintentionally, blur the lines between who we are (outward facing), who we are (introspectively), and who we want to be.

A recent example of such a mistake is when former U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner accidentally published a direct message as a live Tweet. Suddenly, his public, private and secret lives were one and unfortunately (or fortunately) his once separated worlds were introduced to one another with devastating effect. With reference to Dr. Egon Spengler from Ghostbusters, we must be careful not to cross the streams.

This happens every day. Whether we admit it or not, the truth is that just like in real life, our actions and words that we share online affect how people see us. It’s the discrepancy in how others see us and how we see ourselves that begins to create the potential for confusion and conflict online that ultimately affects the value of our digital persona or brand. And, this is why Facebook’s more “open” Open Graph launched at the recent f8 event is something you and 800 million other people need to think deeply about before the new Facebook Timeline is unveiled.

Ignorance is Bliss Until It’s Not

Dave Winer published a post that is reverberating through the web and the hacker/developer communities. His title says everything, “Facebook is scaring me.”

Dave’s perspective is honest and it represents the type of thinking that will benefit most Facebook users…

“Every time they make a change, people get angry. I’ve never myself been angry because I have always assumed everything I post to Facebook is public. That the act of putting something there, a link, picture, mini-essay, is itself a public act. This time, however, they’re doing something that I think is really scary, and virus-like. What clued me in was an article on ReadWriteWeb that says that just reading an article on their site may create an announcement on Facebook.”

To be clear, what Facebook is introducing will profoundly change and improve the experience of social networking. Mark Zuckerberg refers to this as “frictionless sharing” which encourages “real-time serendipity.” But with social media comes great responsibility and it is now up to each one of us to be incredibly aware of what we interact with online as it may trigger an automated update to your social graph. Let’s take a minute to review what exactly the new Facebook Open Graph will and will not do.

First, Facebook observed that asking people to manually Like, Share, or Comment on content requires an extra step that actually inhibits sharing and interaction. Rather than introduce changes to the buttons, it will simply change the technical framework for apps within Facebook so that rather than requiring you to click to share, comment or express sentiment, the app automatically broadcasts a status update for you. For example, with the new Facebook and Spotify integration, simply listening to music automagically updates my News Feed (eventually my timeline). Depending on how much interaction it triggers, that activity may also show up in your News Feed.

At f8, the Washington Post introduced Social Reader, an app that produces a custom “Front Page” based on what I read and what my friends are reading in the app. If I stay on a story for longer than say 30 seconds, an update is sent to my stream alerting my social graph as to what currently has my attention.

Apps will be based on action verbs to entice those who follow you to follow suit. Soon your timeline will be rich with words including…

Listened to

Andy Samberg on stage at f8 impersonating Mark Zuckerberg

Learn and Teach

Before you panic, the sky isn’t falling. The new Facebook isn’t monitoring and broadcasting your actions simply by logging in. People will not leave Facebook en masse. At the heart of the matter, we are talking about a new class of intelligent apps based on the revamped Open Graph platform where developers can integrate sharing into your interaction. As you install each app, you MUST explicitly give it permission to update your Timeline. No app can update your Timeline without your unequivocal consent.  The better apps will of course offer transparency in how exactly your Timeline will be updated and why it is advantageous for you to do so.

This is where things get serious. Just because you opt-in doesn’t mean that your mindful of all you do within these apps and what’s shared with everyone while you’re caught up in each moment. As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. Here, it’s looking forward that counts and a new mindset is absolutely necessary as we begin to navigate the new Facebook EGOsystem. Without a thoughtful approach, it’s now easier than ever before to share actions or content without intending to do so. Think about it for a moment, your actions will speak as loud or louder than your words as each contribute to a semblance of who you are.

Indeed, privacy as we knew it is dead. It is now something that we have to learn and teach. Your privacy settings in Facebook are yours to manage. But, to do so takes initiative and an understanding that like your credit score, what you share online requires definition and reinforcement. Remember, what works against us also works for us. We’re essentially adding a layer of thoughtfulness in our social networking to better tell our story and also enjoy the stories of others.

As mentors, parents, teachers, and good social denizens, it’s up to us to help another while taking responsibility for what we do and say online. At the end of the day, we can’t blame Facebook or developers when those whom we care about change how they see us.

For brands and developers that embrace frictionless sharing to trigger real-time serendipity, please remember that your long-term success is based on our experiences and the impressions we share with others. Your marketing, product description, opt-in message, and the verbs that you choose to represent out activity, each represent an opportunity for transparency and education. Brands, it may also be time to update your social media policy and also send an alert on how Frictionless Sharing affects engagement.

The future of social networking is indeed rooted in shared experiences and in the end, we earn the attention, engagement, relationships, and relevance we earn. Everything starts with understanding everything about the power of newfound social sharing that lays before us.

UPDATE: Facebook denies cookie allegations

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86 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Whoops, I didn’t mean for you to read this”

  1. Ylipinsky says:

    Good post. It is true. Privacy has been withering in that past few years… Great stuff in here. Thanks Brian

  2. This is by far the most thoughtful post I’ve read on the new Facebook timeline. Thank you for sharing! You make an excellent point that a more open system increases our accountability. 

  3. KurtyD says:

    I just deactivated my Facebook account. I don’t trust it anymore. I’ll stick with Twitter for now. I guess my Mom will have to learn how to use Twitter now to stay in touch with me online. 

    • briansolis says:

      Kurty, it’s a different platform now…I’m learning to find its advantages. What’s clear is that like NBC, CBS, and ABC, I find value in each of top social channels, Facebook, Tiwtter and Google Plus. Hope you’re well my friend.

  4. Thanks for a tempered and intelligent deconstruction, Brian. This really is a new day for the social web. It will be scary to some and liberating for others.

    I’ve long been of two minds on the topic. We’ve worn our social masks for so long – far longer than the the web, let alone the social web has been around – it’s going to be hard to let our collective hair down. But the potential benefits are inspiring and could lead to an incredible, innovative future.

    I for one, am in.

    It even inspired me to write my own personal experience with this new, open and social world – Zuckerberg was Right, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Boss –

  5. Anonymous says:

    Social media is such a great concept, but I agree, it is getting a little scary. The line between personal and private is closer to non-existent than ever. 

  6. Pingback: The New Facebook
  7. Great article. I for one am enjoying the advanced engagement opportunities. Learning will occur first. I think some people will keep their Facebook experience as it is today, while others will engage the larger ecosystem of users and open sharing.

  8. briansolis says:

    Cheers Lincoln. Here’s an interesting response to Nik’s post:

  9. This is a horrible idea, IMO. If I don’t share something manually on Facebook its usually not because its too hard or because its an extra step – it’s because I either don’t think its worth sharing or don’t want to share it. I count on my friends to discriminate in what they share as well. Once sharing is done automatically, the clutter increases exponentially and Facebook becomes even less useful. 

    • briansolis says:

      Annastasia, in Timeline not everything you interact with will broadcast your activity, only the apps that you install and give explicit approval to do so. In turn, not everything your friends do will appear in your feed either. They’re trying to create a more interactive storyline through context. I’m definitely paying attention to see what works and what doesn’t work and will share my thoughts along the way.

  10. I don’t need an app to share this story. Good read

  11. Anonymous says:

    Brian, I think you sailed right through the scylla and carbides on this one. Watchfulness. But not alarm. Attention to a shift in the (sometimes invisible) gears of culture.

  12. Eric Woning says:

    Hi Brian, the reason I am afraid of this kind of thing is because of this: – look at the reponse of Spotify: you cannot get a spotify account anymore if you don’t have Facebook. Why? because otherwise you cannot share your music and that’s how they want to attract new users.

    I love Spotify, but am very scared of frictionless sharing – especially because tools / sites etc. will force you to use it if you want to use their content.

  13. Personally, I would prefer that folks make a conscious decision about whether or not to share something with me; the information/event/photo will mean a lot more if I know that there is actually some thought and consideration behind the sharing.

  14. tmadel says:

    Brian, you are right – as we strive to raise engagement (and all the benefits that entails), we do have to sacrifice some personal privacy.  Facebook seems to be leaning towards putting everything out there and let folks figure out what is valuable.  The reason:  they need to have as much informationas possible so they can sell it to advertisers/brands.  It’s hard to trust an organization whose primary motive is to make money by selling advertising- the telephone was a huge advanced forward in sharing information and building community and people were willing to pay for that service – they saw the value.

    Think if instead of paying a monthly telephone bill, we allowed the phone companies to eavesdrop on our conversations and then target ads at us based on the content.  I doubt many people would go for it…..

    That’s basically what Facebook is doing.  I wonder how many people would find value in Facebook if they had to pay $15/month to have access AND complete control over who sees their information.

  15. Brian– As always, thanks for the informative post.  I’m definitely in the “wait and see” camp, as the future possibilities lend themselves to at least try concepts like this before not doing them altogether.  We, as consumers, all need to educate ourselves about where and when our own information is going public.  As long as there’s transparency between the social network and the communities they support, we can all learn how to push the boundaries through technology without giving up any individual’s right to remain as public or private as they see fit.

  16. Brian– As always, thanks for the informative post.  I’m definitely in the “wait and see” camp, as the future possibilities lend themselves to at least try concepts like this before not doing them altogether.  We, as consumers, all need to educate ourselves about where and when our own information is going public.  As long as there’s transparency between the social network and the communities they support, we can all learn how to push the boundaries through technology without giving up any individual’s right to remain as public or private as they see fit.

  17. Aaron Lintz says:

    Not loving this concept and it brings up several privacy and security concerns.  Social reader in particular could be  harmful.  Taking away the right to opt-out could be a deal breaker for me.

  18. Ryansauers says:

    Brian, this is a great post and thank you for writing it. It is a story that many need to understand and I am going to share.  All my best, Ryan Sauers @ryansauers

  19. Elivela67 says:

    I can personally say this, I will say adios to FB eventually just because of this oversharing feature. I don’t want everyone to know everything I’m doing at any given moment nor do I want to know the same about my friends. SO MUCH NOISE! I don’t have a huge number of friends but I have enough. I can’t imagine all of this chatter. I think there is a point where most reasonable people will balk at what FB is doing and I think they are nearing the tipping point – at least for me. People may not leave en masse but once their lives get “blended” too many times, I suspect the dribs and drabs of those abandoning will add up.

    • Itsreallyonlyme2 says:

      As I mentioned before, it is not that at all…this sharing stuff goes into the Ticker that everyone was complaining about so wildly…very little of it shows on the page in the feed itself.

  20. Sean Toomey says:

    Nice going, Brian. Well thought out and well stated.

  21. Shaun Dakin says:

    Here is what I’ve observed.

    1) Wow !  Frictionless sharing is cool !  What I’m listening to on Spotify is now on facebook !
    2) Hmmm… perhaps sharing EVERY SINGLE song I’m listening to all day in my home office is not a good idea
    3) My friends on Facebook a) making fun of what I’m listening to b) asking me “for the love of God” to turn off the auto sharting
    4) Me going to Spotify to turn off frictionless sharing
    5) Posting to my Facebook page that I turned it off
    6) My friends thanking me !

    Shaun Dakin
    Founder @PrivacyCamp:twitter
    Founder #PrivChat a #Privacy chat on Twitter every Tuesday at Noon ET
    Co-Founder @ReverseRobocall:twitter
    Founder @EndTheRoboCalls:twitter

    • Anonymous says:

      The question for Facebook also becomes “is Facebook becoming to difficult to manage?” and will people, like you, start turning everything off…

  22. Jeff Pester says:

    What Facebook calls “frictionless sharing” I call “socially manipulative sharing & data harvesting”.

  23. Nick Sweeney says:

    You know, as someone who works in the social media space, I’ve become a fan of the idea of connecting (hey, I can easily keep up with my overseas friends, etc.). But enough of this “privacy is dead” crap. Privacy is not dead, not should it ever be. I agree that anyone who posts on Facebook is posting in a public forum and you’re an idiot if you think otherwise. But to follow what someone’s reading is creepy. Let’s be honest – users are not Facebook’s customers. Advertisers are. And I’m annoyed enough when I get unsolicited texts on my cell phone because some jack-off sold my phone number (oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t read the 10,000 page Terms of Use Contract, my bad). Imagine what they can do with your email address.

    I don’t care about changes. I care about not being able to control what is posted. Facebook is starting to creep me out.

  24. In just one week I’ve found a metric buttload of interesting music through the Spotify. There’s no point in denying that people agree to give away their privacy in exchange for the social value some of these services actually succeed in providing. I’ve used and loved for years and I really hope that the FB music platform will provide an even better experience for a larger audience.

    We’ve all had plenty of good shit free of charge over the Internet for the last 10+ years. Much of this would never have been sustainable without aggressive, privacy underming ad revenue business models. Oh and that includes many major warez services.

    I’ve noticed that many fellow asperg^C^C^C hm.. computer enthusiasts fail to notice that relatively few freetard projects turn into products for a major audience. The reasons for this are plentiful. And generally, widely used open source products tend to be either infrastructural stuff or well marketed things that freetards even despise.

    I don’t think social networking as an application will turn into a stack of distributed, service independent protocols for at least a few years. This will happen eventually, but not yet due to the infrastructural requirements involved.

    Developing and running large-scale internet services that look good and function acceptably well is hard, continuous work for highly talented people. These people want salaries in exchange for their expertise and there’s *currently* no known business model in building a tin foil hat approved p2p-based social network.

  25. Thanks for the critical view on the new changes. I’ve been thinking about the new Timeline and the oversharing part too and it not really scares me but it still confuses me. I think, if we have been getting used to the new feature, we’ll know how to handle it. But I still can only ad to the statement “Somes it might simply be better to keep your mouth shut.” and this is “… and think before you click something” 😉 No, honestly, it has become a bit more time consuming to use facebook, but for me the advantages are still there.

  26. mts says:

    Brian, great post. Here’s the other issue with the “frictionless sharing.” To be human is to explore, to read, to think, to form opinions, and ultimately, move forward. What Zuckerberg is doing with this is interrupting that basic human process, and possibly creating a chilling effect on this freedom to explore. The result: you will have to think about what you’re reading, or what media your consuming because it may not conform to what image you are presenting to your social network. Or worse, you think more about a “media consumption strategy” vs. servicing a true need to explore things that may or may not be a statement of who you are. In other words, he has made media consumption part of personal branding. And that really is crossing the line.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Brian, Awesome blog post.  I didn’t attend F8 but felt the Social Timeline was blurring our public, private (and secret) lives further.  I used to say that posting on the internet was like walking down Market Street in San Francisco– everyone can see you but not everyone is paying attention.  With the Social Timeline it appears that my earlier held hypothesis is not quite as true.

    • briansolis says:

      Thanks Parker. You’re hypothesis is still true, but you’re changing how you dress and how you present yourself…it might make you more noticeable, or it might not. It’s your story to tell…do with it what you will.

    • Anonymous says:

      I was thinking about this a bit more afterwards… and had two more thoughts:

      1. I think Garcia Marquez’s comment still holds but I might rephrase as “public, personal and private”.
      2. I was also thinking about what this means to the “personal brand” and how now more than ever the “personal brand” is becoming a “public brand” and how we need to be extra vigilant about managing it.

  28. I agree with Annastasia’s comment, not sharing on FB is not because it’s too hard, it’s because it’s not worth sharing or it’s to be kept private. Everyone does not need to know everything that is going on in others lives at any given point in time.

  29. Great discussion, Brian. That’s a very interesting use of the word ‘serendipity’ by FB.   The giant isn’t a blessing in all quarters anymore and saying it is don’t change its spots, Mark.

  30. Anonymous says:

    perhaps the phrase open mouth insert foot should be included somewhere . facebook seems an incredible waste of time for those that have a real life maybe for those that do not also . having all of your so called friends in the loop on your entire life should be interesting .

  31. Elise Hall says:

    The line between the public and private life is so thin — as you said, social media blurs the line.  As I have experienced from the last few years, it’s much better to air on the side of caution when it comes to “letting it all hang out”.  How can we get public personalities/officials/celebrities and businesses to understand to air on the side of caution?

  32. Elise Hall says:

    The line between the public and private life is so thin — as you said, social media blurs the line.  As I have experienced from the last few years, it’s much better to air on the side of caution when it comes to “letting it all hang out”.  How can we get public personalities/officials/celebrities and businesses to understand to air on the side of caution?

  33. Hi Brian, I liked your post. I have one question: What’s the clinch for news organizations to launch or promote apps that propel their readers to stay and spend more time on Facebook instead of routing these readers to their own sites? Not able to understand it from the news organization’s perspective.

    • briansolis says:

       It’s about engaging people where their attention is focused and bringing them to your site where they can engage and feed content and activity back into their streams.

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