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BLOG: Why Social networks should be more like Facebook Poke

Mike Elgan | Dec. 31, 2012
When it comes to Facebook users and their messages, almost nobody knows who can see or share their posts on social networks. And that's a problem that must be fixed, says Mike Elgan.

In short, regular social networking posts should work like Poke.

In Poke, users always know exactly who they're sharing their text, pictures or video with. Pictures can't be saved. When screenshots are taken the sender is notified. All messages have an expiration date.

Poke lets you send messages that self-destruct one, three, five or 10 seconds after the recipient opens it -- the sender chooses which.

Regular posts on Facebook, however, last forever -- or, until the unlikely event that the user deletes his or her user account.

These are the two extremes of time-control offered to users on just about every service: 10 seconds, max -- or eternity. But why?

Why social post need expiration dates

Why are regular, permanent posts one thing and Poke is another? Why not simply provide good, Poke-like information about who's getting all Facebook posts? And why not give the option to set expiration dates for all Facebook posts - one, three, five or 10 seconds, one day, one month, one year, 10 years -- just let the user pick any expiration date.

Sure, expiration-date messaging exists. There are already services that will erase your messages after a user-determined amount of time.

But hardly anybody uses these. They're an obscure category of messaging, and feel somewhat shady to use, like you're trying to hide something.

What we really need is knowledge and control built right into social networks.

Until just a few years ago, communication was temporary. In order for humans to grow, change and move on with their lives, people need to forget the past. Forgetting is an under-appreciated requirement for social cohesion and personal progress.

As our communication services are currently structured, the Internet never forgets anything. A generation is entering the workforce and finding that pictures posted of their high school antics may cost them a job.

Bosses, HR departments, detectives, divorce lawyers, creditors, trolls and malicious people of every description can find out everything you've ever posted about everything -- and everything others have posted about you -- and use it against you in unpredictable ways.

As we increasingly post every detail of our lives online, it's time to step back and ask if forever is a good default for storing messages and making them available to the public.

Sure, we can store things forever. But just because we can doesn't mean we should.

We all need to re-think our approach to social messaging, and decide whether every word, picture and video we ever post should be available to everyone until the end of time.

People involved in creating and running social networks, such as the Zuckerbergs, need to stop blaming users and start providing us with knowledge about -- and control over -- the messages they send.

It's not about decency. It's about settings. And we need better ones.


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