Social Networks and Boundaries

Most people today have multiple social networking profiles.  Myspace, Facebook, Friendster, Twitter, Plurk, blogs, etc.  That makes for a pretty open flow of information, but shouldn’t there be boundaries?

What I mean is, do you open your accounts to anyone that wants to view your content?  For services like Twitter, Plurk and blogs (generally) the whole point is to have transparency and openness in your communication.  It’s to put ideas out there, to share content with other people, and to express yourself.  So, there’s no real reason to put a limit on what people can see.  But in services like MySpace, Friendster, or Facebook I think people are taking the wrong approach.

Once upon a time these services were meant to be mostly private profiles, where your content was shared with people you know by adding them as ‘friends’, or contacts.  Somewhere along the line things went wrong.  I blame MySpace.

During MySpace’s boom people started what I like to call the ‘friend game’.  It didn’t matter if you knew the person or not, you just added them in an attempt to have the highest ‘friend’ count.  To me, the idea is ridiculous.  These particular social networks were made for maintaining existing relationships and creating new relationships with people.  Can you really have meaningful relationships with over 1000 people?  How often do you have time to really ‘speak’ to those people on your social networks?  Between Facebook, Twitter, and Plurk I would say there are 80 people or so that I communicate with regularly and that’s pretty time consuming.  Not to say it’s not worth it, or rewarding, but if having a real relationship with 80 people is time consuming, how do you do it with hundreds or thousands?

You see where I’m going with this?  Once you get beyond a certain point you’re no longer doing it for friends, or for networking with people you actually know.  You’re playing the ‘friend game’.  It’s like an extension of the high school popularity contest mentality.  It’s sad though, because those relationships aren’t meaningful and really don’t mean anything at all.

That being said, I use different social services for different levels of privacy.  I reserve Facebook for my real friends and for my family, extended family and on occasion trusted friends of the family.  I don’t invite just anyone to view what’s in my profile.  It’s private and should stay that way.  My Twitter, Plurk, and blog are open and I post content on those platforms accordingly.

I wonder how other people manage their social profiles?  Do they just invite anyone, or do they think about what they’re sharing and then manage their fans into different platforms depending on how much they want that person to know about them?

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