making sense of social

The woes of Frictionless Sharing: or why I don’t want to know when you poop

Automatic posting, or frictionless sharing as Facebook is calling, essentially means Facebook automatically sharing updates of what a person is doing. Whether that activity is listening to a music track or trading an article on a website.

There are two problems with this new approach to sharing. The first is that this essentially equates social networking with life streaming. Facebook goes as far as to rename profiles as timelines. It assumes we want people to know everything about us, that we want our lives to be public, our lives to be lived in the public domain. But not everyone wants their activity broadcast across the web, certainly not all of their activity. Not everyone wants to be a celebrity, sacrificing privacy for slightly more attention. The functionality is, for now at least, opt in. Meaning the user has to allow Facebook permission to auto share, and in the instance of reading updates, the site must also have the functionality enabled.

However it is default behaviour that if a user does opt in, all of their friends will see these updates. And this is the second problem. It assumes that this information is interesting or relevant to other users. It equates activity with tacit approval or even recommendation. Pre-timeline behaviour was that people had to choose what and when to share. A particularly interesting article, funny video or great music track. People picked good things, acting essentially as curators of content. But now just reading an article for 30 seconds counts as a share worthy event, at least in Facebook’s eyes. Every song you listen to, even the slightly embarrassing playlists, are shared automatically. No selection, no picking and choosing, just a constant stream of unfiltered updates.

People connect on Facebook because they are (hopefully) friends. They want keep in touch and up to date with what is going on in their lives. The big events. The birthdays, the engagements, hell, sometimes even the photos from their holiday. But being a friend with someone does not mean you want to know every little update about their lives. There’s no call for Facebook connectivity in everything we do. I for one don’t wish to know when my friend reads just any article, I want to know when they read an article they find interesting, one they find worth sharing. Automatically sharing creates a stream of largely uninteresting sharing precisely because it is frictionless.

The idea that one day everything we do or interact with will have Facebook connectivity is terrifying. It conjures up images of a dystopian future where we are all reduced to our streams, updating whenever you make a purchase or go to the toilet. And nobody really wants that do they?

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About the author

This post was written by Mike Phillips

Plannery type person with silly side projects. Not to be trusted.

Follow them on twitter: @imjustmike

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  1. Claire |

    I find it worrying you might go to a site and it’ll update without even saying ‘Oh Hi user! Just going to blurt an alert out to Facebook about this, keep reading y’all.” The copy might need some work but that’d be useful. Not least embarrassing dependent on the page but I foresee it ruining Christmas presents when someone’s secretly poking around amazon, say and it dumps stuff onto the wall.

    A good insightful title as ever.

  2. stedmeister |

    Frictionless updating is certainly annoying and I pretty much refuse to use spotify after all the spam that they have put into my feed as of late (not all the blame belongs with facebook). However, as long as it doesn’t monopolise your feed, it can be pretty cool, for example @hungry_birds or God forbid @hacklabtoilet.

  3. Mike Phillips |

    @Claire – exactly what I’m thinking. The problem with users granting permission once is that users tend to be stupid and forget. There are lots of times when I don’t want the content I’m reading to shared shared – not because it’s private or embarrassing, but simply because it’s not worth sharing. (glad you like the title)

    @stedmeister – I am very surprised spotify is now Facebook only too, you can’t sign up without a facebook account. I do believe you can turn the auto share off, but I’m always of the opinion these things should be opt in.

  4. Lisa Radin |

    I’m looking at this from ‘the dark side’ – think Facebook has positioned the Timeline as “Good for You’ when in fact, it’s “Good for Them” as it allows more analytics and strategic alliances to gain ad revenue. Perhaps for some, they will find it ‘Good’, but I find it more a strategy of ‘disguise’ – a strategy built on internal need – and viewing ‘customer’ as payors – those who will monetize Facebook. In any business there are 2 strategies — one for end-users (real customers) and one for distribution (sales/accounts) – seems Facebooks merging the 2 as one w/o care and that is an age-old marketing/sales problem. Look at classic brand management – category management — where ‘customer’ became major account – look how that turned out – P&G after years of doing – now turning back to customer and insights to drive the business – a dismal failure. Facebook should learn from others errors – not reinvent an old wheel.
    Again — this view is from ‘the dark side’ – many are not in my camp, but I am firm believer that customer (end-user) is KING and if Facebook really wanted to target/support customer there are 100′s of ways to do that and Timeline would probably not be one of them.

  5. Sherman Lau |

    I am trying to think from 3 different perspectives. Working in Digital Marketing industry before(and probably after I have done this master), I understand countless opportunities the new Facebook going to bring in terms of targeting, brand engagement and creativity promotion campaign. It is really exciting.

    Nevertheless, thinking of the society’s best interests is another thing. The convention and norm of sharing in social media will be changed. “Frictionless sharing” will make people even more unaware of what they are showing and leaving in the global network-though it maybe opposite in some cases as it is way too frictionless to be accept. Especially the teen, I am not sure all of the, understand the consequences. I think we need to make them aware of the risks and empower them to make their own choices.

    That is why I am working on a project on Digital Memory in my master. I started working on an artefact “Re:Memory” to raise awareness of this issue within generation Y. The idea of “Re:Memory” is that users are encouraged to upload their memories in a platform. However, users’ memories, once uploaded, will “disappear” until they suddenly pop up in front of their owners’ eye one day in a special form. Besides getting back their memory, the users will also receive some information regarding how to secure their digital memory.

    Finally, from a very personal perspective, I used to be a heavy user of Facebook, but this time I will be more conservative. I am not ready to be naked yet. I am not:P

    Have a look if you are interested in my project:


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