My Life is My Own

I just turned Google Buzz off.

When it launched, I was actually mildly excited, while still perfectly aware that there was no way this could be a Twitter or Facebook killer. Being a Facebook killer is probably what they were aiming for, because Twitter is one of the services it allows you to connect to.

One of the things that Google requires you to do to have Buzz fully functional is to fill out your Google profile (why only for Buzz, I’m not quite sure). It pulls in a few details automatically if you have profiles on any of their owned services like YouTube or Picasa (which I do), and allows you to enter the rest. The whole concept of Google profiles, while disconcerting to me, works for some people, because I’ve noticed more than one person in my Twitter network admitting that their Google profile is now their online CV, more or less. (Personally, I prefer flavors.me because it’s not so controlling – but that’s just me).

Anyway, I was very uncomfortable with the fact that they automatically pulled some of my details in and by default made it public, but since I’m tech-savvy enough to know how to disable those options, I did, as soon as I was able to. Of course in a couple of days Google themselves changed their privacy policy on Buzz and more or less admitted they made a mistake – I’m glad they understood that they started off on the wrong foot there.

Bud Caddell has written a good post about why Buzz doesn’t work for him, and what he says pretty much holds for me too, so I’m not going to repeat it. What I do want to talk about is the increasing sense of discomfort that is pervading my peace of mind as I go about my daily business on the web. Nothing’s changed that much in terms of how I use it – sure, I probably use social networking sites a bit more, but then so does everyone. I guess what I am coming to terms with is that the privileged club I like to think I was part of – the Early Adopters – has now given way to the Late Majority and the Laggard groups, who are completely invading my web spaces and rendering them less enjoyable to me.

Katy Lindemann wrote another nice post a while ago about how she has different rules for accepting people into her spaces on different networks (which I completely agree with). It came up again yesterday when I met her and she told me about how complete strangers were asking to be added as her friend on Foursquare, which as we all know means you allow your connections an uber-increased level of access to your life, because it relays location-specific data.

(As an aside, PleaseRobMe is an extreme case of this. Its creators are making a point, albeit in an uncomfortable manner – don’t check in at your home address and don’t be too forthcoming with your information online. That applies to something like Facebook also – I know plenty of people who have their home addresses on their profiles there).

Getting back to what I was talking about, the Late Majority and Laggards invading my spaces – am I being stupid here to think that I have the right to control my spaces however I want? When a classmate from school that I can’t even remember asks to add me on Facebook, or someone I do not know at all asks to follow me on Buzz, why do I feel more and more like I am losing control? That pressing the ‘ignore’ button is getting to be tiresome, and in itself an invasion of my peace of mind? Clearly it has to do with these sites becoming more popular. Is there any way to circumnavigate that problem? Making something as closed as A Small World is completely out of the question for sites that define themselves as social.

But then I think of  Twitter. These issues crop up much less there. What has Twitter done that is so remarkably right, that no one else can get?

I remember (again) reading a quote recently by Evan Williams or Biz Stone (I can’t remember where it was), that mentioned how no one still knows what Twitter actually is. I think that’s a large part of why it’s so successful. It also isn’t as threatening from a privacy point of view – it doesn’t ask much of you, relationships are allowed to grow as people want them to, there is no pressure to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to someone, and it doesn’t spew apps into your face (if that happens, you can simply unfollow the offender).

I know it isn’t easy, and we’re going to have to navigate an increasingly complex web, both figuratively and literally. I just wanted to have my say.

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2 thoughts on “My Life is My Own

  1. What I like about Twitter is that they let you keep the control. Even when they introduced geotagging, they let it be an opt-in option.
    And I have a lot of formal and informal relations over email. For people with ‘compartmentalisation’ as an obsession, its a nightmare.. 🙂

  2. Hi there – thanks for the comment. I absolutely agree; Buzz gives people like me (with compartmentalisation issues, as you quite amusingly put it), a total headache!

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