By Wyatt Wood
It seems to be a reoccurring trend, at least in the blogosphere, to step back and evaluate the balance that time spent online (largely spent in social networks) affects our lives. This desire for balance is a good move; considering the research showing damaging physiological changes created by increasing use of social networks and the associated decline in face-to-face contact. So it’s time to unplug.
Should a social network be obligated to allow a user to vanish? It can be simplified as who owns the content. The article 10 ways social media will change in 2010 expounds on the idea that a battle over content will erupt is a very real concern. And a social network profile is really just content, albeit juicy content for advertising impression research and trends.
In the case of Google, they have explicitly stated that they do not mine the data – with a note that they could and that government institutions can as well:
“Nothing’s permanent, not even death.” – from the Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. So what if you want to do more than take a break from social media? Now with morbid flair there is a new tool encouraging users to clean the slate and “meet their real neighbors again.” The Web 2.0 Suicide Machine, apparently seems to be working, Facebook recently blocked the service from their network, citing privacy violation. However given how the service works, by blanking out entries rather than deleting, I think it may help expose the fact that it’s not affecting the privacy of users – rather the information being gathered by advertisers.
How successful is this service? So as a consumer of social media, I take at face value all the “data” about my interaction online as well as the actual content that I “create” is monitored and valued to the larger community. Whether services like Suicide Machine are effective or not do not matter – rather I think they provide a good stimulus to the conversation about finding the balance between the real life and the social network persona. What are your thoughts about vanishing your online presence?