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Too Much Knowledge ≠ Good Thing?

I've spent a good deal of time discussing social networks with people far more knowledgeable than me. I use social networks for a variety of purposes (especially LinkedIn for business networking, with Ryze, Friendster, Tribe, and other social networking services trailing far behind). Until, however, an experience today in which I discovered new information on a social network, I failed to appreciate how personal an effect social networks (as currently instantiated by social networking services) could have.

Some years ago, going through a difficult personal situation, I by chance found another participant's accounts of the situation in a public place. I understood their motivation as well as their right to do so, but this understanding didn't make it any easier for me to read what they had written. What happens as more and more of us capture our interpersonal relationships through social networking services? What happens when the trail of our personal lives is out there, waiting to be followed, always just a click away, for us or anyone else? What will the effect of this be? Will more knowledge empower us? Will transparency in social networks fundamentally improve human relationships? Or is too much knowledge sometimes a bad thing? Is there information we're better off without? I honestly don't know, but I think we're going to find out, and soon. Social networking isn't a fad, it's a huge trend, and we're just at the start of it.

When social networks reach a billion humans through their cell phones, when social networks form the open directories of the future, when we share our words, our sounds, and our images with our social networks on a continuous basis, when we leave behind trails of the experiences that form our lives, when these trails live in multiple networks and are interconnected, persistent, available, and malleable... then we'll begin to comprehend how social networking will change us, how it will change our perception of ourselves and those around us, how it will change the fundamental nature of how we create, sustain, and destroy relationships.

Oh, and this is all going to happen within five years or so. Get ready.

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