When it comes to social networking I am definitely a noob, so I apologize in advance for any comments or observations I make that may seem out of line. But like me, I think there are plenty of others in the same category. You may have had a Facebook account for a while now, but having it and actually using it are two different things.
Before I picked up my new WP7 phone a couple weeks ago I was already registered with; Twitter, although I was only following, and Linked In, to connect with past and present “business” associates. I have also had a Windows Live ID for years, but that was basically for a Hotmail account and using Messenger, which does not get turned on much these days.
With this new Windows Phone I figured it was time to take the plunge. So I setup a Facebook account, setup my SkyDrive, registered with XBox & Zune, and updated my Windows Live/Messenger stuff. I also connected Windows Live with Facebook, which may or may not have been a good thing. Let’s face it, every social networking medium wants only one thing; for you to connect with as many people as possible, so they can connect with as many people, and so on and so on. Until every person on this small planet is connected to everyone else in some way. Call it Kevin Bacon syndrome. I am sure some of these sites are already broadcasting in outer space, so that when this globe is connected they can be the first to start on the next planet.
I have tried my hardest to keep the reigns on these sites, going through as many security option screens as I can to keep things somewhat locked down for now, but only time will tell how successful I have been. I have not, for example, connected my Linked In credentials with anything else although I am constantly encouraged to do so, as I don’t really need to have a business acquaintance from 15 years ago invited to connect to my distant cousins. When I connected Windows Live to Facebook, I did have to join a few contacts on my phone which was fine, but then I discovered that ALL of my Facebook profile information became “contacts” in Windows Live, like; favorite movie, favorite books, musician, hobbies, etc. I had to scroll through my contacts list and weed out these intruders. Don’t know if I did something wrong, but I don’t think so. Every time I visit one of these sites now I am reminded to connect, connect, connect. It’s like the ultimate chain letter.
What really bothers/worries me though are the things that I don’t see. For example, I recently shared a folder with videos and photos on my SkyDrive with family and friends. Some of those contacts do not have a Windows Live ID, so I allowed “non users” to access the link. But now I wonder, will Microsoft use this as an opportunity to pressure users, my friends and family, to join Windows Live just to view my stuff. I don’t like getting unsolicited reminders and offers and certainly don’t want to be the one to propagate more.
When navigating these sites I have been very cautious of what I click or allow in an effort to prevent unintended invites outside my social circle. But I honestly don’t know how successful I have been. I don’t allow anything to happen on my computers without my permission and I think social sites should, although they probably never will, clearly explain what that next click will do. While there, I almost feel like I am on a rouge website; should I click that button and what’s going to happen if I do. Once an errant click invites 300 people to my social circle that i didn’t intend to invite, it’s pretty hard to undo.
I will admit that I do enjoy seeing and sending updates to the small circle that I have created, and I want to keep it that way. I have promised my early 20’s nephew for example, that I will never ask to join his circle as different generations need to have some of their own space. Business contacts are for business and friends/family that choose to be are a part of my inner circle. And if a few of those contacts overlap its easy enough to friend them in Facebook without opening up the floodgates. If you are new to social networking like me, I suggest you proceed cautiously so you don’t get caught in their tangled web. But as these sites get more aggressive, moving forward I just don’t know how easy that’s going to be.