Over at Information Week, columnist Cory Doctorow raises a stunningly valid point: when it comes to online social networks, how big is too big?
Let's think about real world social networks, he says. In real life (that place you go between power cycles on your laptop) you naturally separate your social circles. You have friends at home, friendly coworkers, church groups (if you're into that,) and family. Often times, you'd never consider throwing a dinner party and inviting your parents and your coworkers. Or your close inner circle of friends and members of bible study.
As individuals, we develop such complex personas that over time, we find that while we get along with different groups of people ... not all those groups of people will necessarily get along with each other.
Think of it as a "web." Of course, without the wires and multitude of sex offenders masquerading as 14-year-olds we're used to.
So here's the point: what happens when your boss requests to be your friend on Facebook? And you're gay, but not out at work? Do you confirm the friendship, and just see what happens? Or do you set you profile to private, decline the invitation, and therefore cause a potentially awkward situation.
Or what about when a sibling or parent decides to jump on the Facebook bandwagon -- and finds you, and learns things about you that probably wasn't intended for them.
There's two lessons in this. First, before you start placing personal and (potentially) sensitive information on the internet (regardless of whether someone needs an account or password to see it), THINK. Are there people you don't want to see this information? Because chances are, they will find it.
Second: At what point do people cross the threshold, and decide that social networking on the internet is just too much. Too widespread. Too dangerous. Malcolm Gladwell would call it the Tipping Point.
Interesting thing to think about.