Social networks and services have definitely given us new and seamless ways to communicate with people from across the globe, pushing the boundaries of what in our lives is deemed acceptable to share, but a wall has been hit and the efforts to tear it down have left me uncomfortable. I’m specifically talking about this new move to broadcast what pages and messages we’ve viewed, without our consent. Services like BBM have long been guilty of this, but the idea has seen increased adoption recently with services like FB Messenger and Apple’s iMessage. In fact, this whole push for “passive sharing” has been gaining momentum, with Quora as the latest transgressor.
Top: Apple’s iMessage / Bottom: Facebook Messenger
We’re now forced into an obligation to respond to a person’s message, almost immediately. With email and texting, there exists a wall of privacy and discretion where the person on the receiving end is given full power to read, ignore, or respond without being bound by deadlines or expectations. I may not want to read or reply to a message for a myriad of reasons – I need time to think of a proper response, I’m waiting on other plans to get sorted, or the sender is just someone who really annoys me. My question is: Is this sort of stuff increasing the value of our social interactions? I don’t think so. In fact, I’d argue that it’s making our interactions less enjoyable. Many friends have mentioned how others knowing when they’ve read a message has made for many awkward situations; and I wholeheartedly agree.
A lot of services seem to subscribe to the belief that the value of a person’s interactions is directly proportional to the degree of transparency with which they share their lives. But much of the value in our dealings with others is found in the privacy of the many decisions we make. This privacy is as essential a component in successfully participating in society as openness and honesty; and if services don’t start understanding that, people will eventually push back.
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