Going back to basics

Slowly, but surely, we are going back to basics. With the help of social media, of course. There has been a lot of talk recently about privacy concerns and there were a lot of complaints from users as well. However, I believe that such attitudes exist mainly because of people’s lack of understanding of what social media is about. Services like these are still considered “the new thing” by majority of users (but also non-users) and it is a well-known fact that people tend to resist change and express reservations of the unfamiliar, of what they can’t really understand.

Privacy - from Latin: privatus "separated from the rest, deprived of something"

Such is the case with the use of Facebook. By constantly introducing new features and allowing people to share more and more information about themselves, the company gets a lot of slack about its privacy policies. Some of the issues include the selling of user data to third parties (mostly for marketing purposes) and the ability to control who can access the personal data of users. Such issues result from the fact that in most cases people don’t pay attention to all the options available when setting up an account that give you the opportunity to choose what to be visible to whom. They also don’t spare a moment to read the disclaimer when allowing third-party applications to gain access to their user data. Last, but not least, a lot of Facebook users post content without considering other people in their networks. Fortunately, I believe that in time such behaviours will change and users of social media will pay more attention to what they are doing online.

At the same time, social media is constantly reshaping our perception about privacy. First of all, I want to make it clear that when I talk about privacy I use the term in the context of Anglo-American and Western cultures. Understanding the concept of privacy varies from culture to culture and one should try to keep away from generalisations. For instance, in some cultures there is no translation or direct equivalent to the word privacy, simply because behaviours and attitudes there are significantly different from those in Western cultures. Second, I observe a pattern with social media of tearing down boundaries between people. Boundaries which began to exist only in the past couple of centuries when relatively small communities started to grow and prosper at fast rates. Think back to the times when people were living in tribes. Try to put yourself in such an environment. You are a member of a very small, private community where everyone knows everyone and everything you do is noticed by the other tribe members. In other words – everyone from your network receives regular updates about your profile. With this example I am trying to express my understanding of what has been going on for the past couple of years in this globalised world – we are becoming part of bigger and bigger societies regardless of place, time and cultures, and what brings us together are common interest and preferences. With the help of social media, of course.

This week there has been another new development with Facebook – the company presented its revamped messaging system that will become available to all users in the next few months (in the beginning the service will be accessible through invites only which you can request here).

This new feature will enable users to store all their conversations through both email and SMS together with their Facebook messages in a social inbox. Basically, they are introducing a central communications platform which you can access and use through any means whenever and wherever you are in the world. Furthermore, the service provides the user with the ability to store the whole conversation history at one place. I really like how the guy from the video makes a comparison between the new messaging system and the old box of your grandmother where she stores all her correspondence at one place.

And once more I find a proof in this that we are going back to basics with the help of technology. True, there are significant differences of how we use these new services, but in their core they are serving our basic, almost primal needs.


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