Monday, March 30, 2009

Connecting online & spheres of intimacy

The questions of how, through which services and with whom to connect online are in many people's minds. The social media scene is developing rapidly and the social norms within it are still in their earlyish stages of development.

Here's a reply I sent to a friend of a friend (whom I've never met to my knowledge .. pardon my bad memory if I have!) that explains my thoughts on the issue for my part:

I appreciate your friend request. The web is such a wonderful enabler for serendipitous connections - which often prove to be immensely valuable! I find it quite interesting to see & follow how the social media scene is in a turbulent phase of development, how practices to use different tools are evolving continuously and quite rapidly - and how different people use different tools and services so .. well, differently. As for me and connecting with people online: While I like to establish connections with new interesting people in many services I use -- I think that that's really the only way to allow the power of serendipity (The Long Tail, really) to kick in -- I realize that Facebook for me is essentially a place to foster connections I've created elsewhere (in the physical world, other social media services, FB groups, etc). For me it's a question of privacy and different spheres if intimacy. But as said, I'm always open to connecting with new interesting people. My preferred mode of connecting with new people is microblogging: I can be found at and & (for opensource alternatives). Of these Twitter is my current "de facto standard" of online discussions. Other social media services I use can be found via my Google Profile. Cheers, -Jaakko


Risto said...

Excellent way to put it, kind of turns the friend of a friend away in a nice and polite way and at the same time invites him/her to connect on proper level.

Some time ago, when I got actually paid to think and draw concepts on social networking and web communities I started to think that there really are not a single community users belong to. There are different levels of intimacy, or spheres as you put it, that define the connections to other people and managing those connections is a tedious and difficult task: what I want to express to my close and loved ones, what about colleagues, friends, really old friends, members of sports team, public.

For the time being, I guess that using different services for different purposes and different communities makes sense, like you put it. Also I think that the one that actually cuts this nut open in one service managing the different levels of intimacy is pretty far making a hit.

Jaakko H. said...

Risto: You're so right.

But I must say that I'm not really sure if that "nut" can be cracked. Life is just so complex (... not necessarily difficult, or at least it needn't be even if we make it so in our minds).

Someone just recently wrote about this noting that it's quite possible that we simply want to have the separation of many things to be as strong as it "normally" is in today's world that it's impossible to ever bring these different aspects of our lives into one social media platform. Unfortunately I can't remember where it was that I read this thought but I think the reasoning has a strong point.

Building on this I think one of the really big challenges there is to all these different social media is on flexible interoperability that allows and gives people the freedom to choose just in the same way we do in the physical world. And the technical side, like always, is only one side to the equation. And quite possibly, or actually quite probably the smaller side.

The main challenge, as we can see already with _using_ today's tools is just that: _how_ we use them, how we communicate to others how we use them, how we state -- more or less explicitly/subtly -- that what kind of usage is ok and what is not.

And that, I think, is all about values, do we think it's ok that others use the systems in a certain way or not? Essentially, do we allow others to use the services they and we use in the way they want to use them? Do we give accept them or not.

And that, I've noted, from the way others as well as the way I use these things, is not a minor challenge. Just because I define my usage of these services the way I do certainly doesn't mean that others should do the same. And also, I realize, that the way I use these services is also in continuous change.

So, maybe all this is as simple as the old wisdoms of life:
* Don't assume and
* Allow others to do things the way they do things. Accept things fully as they are (not a bad advice for pretty much anything..).

Ok, maybe a little sidetracking from the topic but I blame it on my last week's yoga retreat and the universe :)