A colleague recently passed around a link to a Wired article that lamented that modern day social networks have killed the ability to “lose touch” with a friend and let them fade into the background. Instead we have to take action and ban, block, or un-friend them which seems a bit rash (especially when services such as Qwitter tell you when someone has un-subscribed). It’s like shouting out to someone, “You’re not my friend!”
From my perspective, Nokia is very interested in the social impacts of the tools that they build. For instance, on the drive down I was listening to Matt Locke talk about how people have collectively “hacked” social gestures for the introduction of mobile phones into society. The phone booth that we would use to exit a public space to make a phone call evolved into a “hood” structure. With cell phones we used to cup our mouth or duck our head to indicate we were on the phone but now have evolved (?) into talking freely in the clear while sporting a blinking Bluetooth headset. It is still early days with regards to social networks. We haven’t evolved a similar set of shared gestures beyond perhaps the @reply which is really only understood by a tweetist.
Later I ran across the following passage from Reprise Media’s excellent Search Views blog:
When I was a kid we had to network socially by punching a random bunch of digits into a keypad, (or twirling a dial with your finger – a dial!) picking up a big clumsy plastic thing attached to a squiggly wire, and speaking into it. If you were lucky your buddy was on the other end. Worse, it was done one person at a time! You kids never had it so good!
Updating my Facebook profile to reflect my new employer, I notice that I know no one here at Nokia. I have a list of people my manager recommend that I synch up with to soak up the lay of the land – should I use the phone, email or maybe Facebook?
Further Reading: How Mobility Will Change Social Networking