Speaking in hushed tones.

Something I’ve been thinking about recently – it’d be nice if developers at Facebook, Twitter, etc. came up with options to allow users to streamline their messages so that users can decide which messages they want to broadcast (general audience) or conversely, narrow-cast (specified audience).

I know someone is going to attempt to rebutt this idea by saying something along the lines of “But Twitter allows you to protect your feed” or “But Facebook allows you to create privacy settings”.

Well, that’s not what I’m talking about.

The features I mentioned above are very ‘all or nothing’ in that we only have the options of saying something to everyone or saying nothing at all, when in essence, we might be in situations where we want to say a particular something to a certain group of people at a certain point in time.

Let me illustrate with the example of my Facebook profile. My profile is protected in the following ways:

  • Only ‘friends’ can see my entire profile, so you’ve got to add me as a friend before you can view my profile, and
  • Only people who aren’t on my Limited Profile can see my status updates.

Now, let’s say I want to post something about work on my status. The colleagues whom I’ve added as friends can normally see my status updates. However, this time round I might  feel that this particular status update isn’t something I want my colleagues to see, perhaps because I’m afraid they might ‘view’ me in a certain way after they’ve read what I’ve said.

At this point, I’d like to be able to have an option whereby I can decide: alright, let’s publish this status message, but let’s exclude this person and that person from knowing about it, for the reason I’ve mentioned above.

Think about my idea this way – it’s the digital equivalent of speaking in hushed tones in the office, so that you get to control who gets to listen in to what you want to say, and who doesn’t.

At this point, someone else is probably gonna ask: “What about using private messages then?”

Well, private messages are precisely that – private. They have a different social connotation from status messages i.e. we’d only use private messages if the information was strictly meant for private consumption. In a face-to-face context, it’s the equivalent of whispering – and whispering to a few hundred individuals at one go doesn’t really make sense, does it?

So I think it’d be nice if social networking tools could start to reflect some of the nuances in face-to-face communication/social interaction that haven’t been duplicated in the digital arena yet. It’s probably one of the issues that will mark the next step forward in the evolution of the Web 2.0 landscape.

About the author

Laremy Lee

A versatile educator, writer and editor, Laremy Lee (李庭辉) has the uncanny knack of being one of the few among his generation in Singapore who crafts compelling stories in different genres.

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