‘Frictionless sharing’ courtesy of Facebook

On July 3rd, 1995 The Economist wrote “[i]n its audacious uselessness – and that of thousands of ego trips like it – lie the seeds of the Internet revolution…” to describe the “profound” fish tank webcam that had been set-up at the headquarters of Netscape Communications in mid-1994.  This, among with another 3,000-4,000 sites, formed the beginning of what many people today can identify as the Internet and/or the World-Wide Web.  In addition, this was one of the very first instances of something truly frivolous being shared on the high-speed computer network that over two billion people connect to on a daily basis.

Fast-forward a scant 16 or 17 years and we have Mark Zuckerberg announcing the release of the new Timeline feature on Facebook.  This new sharing format promises to provide an elegant and streamlined capability for disclosing virtually every activity you perform on Facebook and given the enveloping nature of their application and content partnerships people are spending more and more time interaction on/with the social networking giant.  Voila!  “Frictionless sharing” is born.

Farhad Manjoo at Slate wrote an excellent article about the problems this new capability presents for the average person.  The problem essentially comes down to who benefits from your sharing more (Facebook) and at what price – it isn’t just your privacy you’re compromising:

Mark Zuckerberg wants you to share. He doesn’t much care if you want to share. Sharing, in Zuckerberg’s view, has morphed from an affirmative act – that video was hilarious, I think I’ll Like it! – to something more like an unconscious state of being. I watched that video, and therefore it will be shared.

Manjoo describes it as an issue of ‘taste’ but when it comes down to it, the act of sharing online is really performing the duties of an amateur curator and critic.  In a decidedly unscientific poll I conducted, most people admitted that they were not genuinely tempted to learn what song the kid that sat behind them in fourth grade is listening to at the moment but they are interested in hearing about what a good friend thinks of that very same song.  Facebook has come a very long way in helping connect people and encourage rampant and often unwanted sharing, although they’ve done a mediocre to poor job of helping users aggressively filter the wheat from the chaff and – unless this problem is solved in the near future – they may begin to see the unwanted effects of Stanton’s Law of Social Interaction.