Social Media : The Glue of Contemporary Society?

Sticky glue

We are all connected. Facebook looks like the glue the world needed to connect us all. Alternatives like Twitter and Linked-in and Instagram connect people in a similar way. But social media also have an ugly downside.

Facebook has taught us to like and unfriend. It has taught us to be rude or unscrupulous towards both strangers and acquaintances. It has taught us to express our political opinions and to unfriend people because of these opinions. It has even pushed teenagers to suicide. It also has helped us to retrace old friends and stay in touch over long distances, to buy or sell second hand items, to view lots of cool videos we would never have seen otherwise. To hear the latest about people you know but rarely see or to help capture a criminal. Facebook is both a threat and a blessing.

But ask yourself : How many people on facebook do you talk to and how does that compare to your total number of facebook friends. How many of your friends posts do you actually pay attention to? How many have you hidden?

Although Facebook changes its algorithm regularly you get to see about 35 percent of your friends post. In some cases that is a good thing because you don’t really want to know every meal of the day some people still post. And those who are lonely do tend trying to gain attention by posting a lot of irrelevant things. Yet surely sometimes you want to read more from valuable friends.

But that is not really what this article is about. What we are after is more protection from the negative feelings and harassment. So I want to look in into the question if there is a way to reduce the threat of social media. To create a social medium that is more protective but that still keeps you in touch with the world. It may lose a few features but if people feel a lot safer that may well be worth the while.

How do you create such a social app?

I believe the primary condition is to make it an opt-in system where you automatically select who views what every time you share something. A system where it is easy to block people but where it is unlikely that you would given the nature of the app. The people that would end up in your friend list would be those in your phonebook. That means people you actually meet up with physically or that you value enough for a personal conversation. People who respect you. 

Opt-in means that you would select who you share your post with. Best way to do this would be to have groups where you can add or remove people or create new groups to your liking and just select a group to share something with. Mostly the group you shared an activity with and some people whom you want to share it with. But you are in charge. Is that technically feasible? No doubt. It is just a matter of combining functions that reduces selection processes so that the user is not bothered too much with picking who sees what and still has a feeling of control.

Another obvious question would be ‘is this commercially viable?’. Well think about it. What will drive you most to buy an item : a friend or an add? That means there is room for advertising for what a people like on their timeline so that their friends can see what they are following. I guess that answers the question mostly. Find out what they like and get their friends to see it.

Can I Have Your Number Please?

Just a few months ago, Facebook’s David Marcus announced the declining significance of the phone number. Not an exuberantly bold statement, but still, I decided to look into this.

I would start with saying that the phone number still is the most secure and personal way to talk to a specific person, since it rarely gets hacked. This is the reason why many companies use it as a preferred means to identify a new subscription to an online service. Many chat apps use it as a reference for your account, and applications also still offer regular phone calls as an alternative to VOIP or in-app calls.

Another important fact is that the quality of regular phone connections still outweighs that of VOIP or in-app calls in many countries across the world. When a call is important, you will rarely use other features than a direct phone call. That is why I find it a bit hasty to announce it’s death. Surely the use of the phone as the main tool of communication is reducing fast, but the relevance of a phone number has by no means been surpassed.

In my personal experience, introductory communication goes over mail, chat or VOIP. When it is time for a meeting, phone numbers are exchanged and later used to make sure the meeting will take place on the right place and time, since an internet connection is not always guaranteed, making a phone call more likely successful. Obviously this may change as more efficient software will come on the market.

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