Facebook and Issues of Trust

  1. There’s something going down on Facebook. Pay attention.
  2. Facebook nudity policy draws nursing moms’ ire
  3. Trouble in Twitterland
  4. Gaza crisis spills onto the web

I’m behind on news, sorry. Here is a reflection on a few older stories.

I have been wondering a lot about online community. This has become a buzz since social networking, social bookmarking, blogging, etc. became mainstream. Yet, communities exist in other contexts, some of which are older than the newest Web 2.0 craze. Wikipedia, Open Software, Community/PC Support, IRC Chat Channels–all of these provide levels of social interaction, and some may consider their members to form a “community.”

The socialological issues of definition aside (for the moment), one of the largest issues confronting communities online is identity. Recent news reported a college recuriting group creating fake accounts on Facebook and founding various Class of 2013 groups. Twitter had 33 accounts hijacked–including that of the US president elect.

Another large issue is differing norms. As recent dissent against Facebook banning pictures of nursing mothers has shown. Strictly speaking, this is where the issues a definition of community come into play. Tonnies writes of community (gemeinshaft) arrising from a “consensus of wills” and shared experiences. He contrasts with with society (gesellschaft) which derives from compromise and the application of rational will. The issue confronting Facebook and other social media sites is how to transition from community to society. Once Facebook communities were relatively isolated and their members, typically college students, did share common experience. Now, however, as the user base grows (and ages) the needs and wishes of their users vary more greatly. There is less common experience between a married, nursing mother and an unmarried, college student. And still less to a high-school male athlete.

Conflicts between user fractions are inevitable. Political conflicts are only one example, but it has become a very real example during the events in Gaza. As the BBC reports, users have found intense discussion, profile defacing, and hijacking of user accounts as fractions argue their points of view.

I am very interested in how the ideas of “online community” develop. Any thoughts?

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