Stephen Logan

How Much Information is Too Much Information Online?

12th Jan 2010 Social Media 3 minutes to read

Have we become too open to the idea of sharing information and what can be done to safeguard Internet users from an avalanche of spam in the future?

The Internet as it stands is acting much like the human heart. Whilst continuing to provide a lifeline for millions of individual cells, the arteries that feed it are becoming increasingly clogged by sediments of spam and useless information. If this allowed to continue, could it be on the verge of a fatal cardiac arrest?

Potential avenues of profitability have opened the doors to the scurrilous and the entrepreneurial; although with more emphasis sadly on the former. The Internet is now rife with automated content, worthless websites and endless empty conversations, all of which are combining to create a monstrous jumble. One of the biggest meeting points for the real world and Internet sharks is on social media sites.
Internet Users Surrendering Privacy?

This week Facebook supremo Mark Zuckerberg claimed that most were actively forfeiting their own rights to personal privacy. He claimed that socialisation of the Internet, which his website has been a key catalyst for, has claimed that privacy is no longer the social norm that we may have previously expected.

Of course those who don’t continually offer up their innermost desires and dinner plans to social networking cohorts and those within their blogosphere, might be alarmed by such flippancy. However, the Internet has developed in such a way that communication and marketing have somehow become indelibly intertwined.

In a rather unhappy coincidence, this week also saw the first murder case where a Twitter conversation is likely to be used as evidence and police swarming a school following a Facebook conversation between a group of pupils whimsically suggesting how to blow up the facility. These may be isolated, or at the very least rare events, but they are both instances where a seemingly private conversation has spilled out into a wider public consciousness – both with serious consequences.

Free-Flowing Personal Information

Social media, or the rather awkwardly titled Web 2.0, has been born out of the rise in popularity for personal websites, blogs and of course emails. Just a decade ago the frivolous way in which we pass on information would have been considered quite shocking – not so today. Its growth has been further facilitated by the spread of portable Internet devices and digital cameras.

Now not only can people share short caveats from their own experiences, but can share the audio visual evidence as proof. Suddenly you are not only defined by a date of birth, list of interests and your own inane public conversations, but pictorial evidence of your activities (and misdeeds).

Social media has been spawned out of a generation of Internet users making personal websites, many to communicate with the world, others to host adverts and earn a little money. Whilst it used to only be a select few, today Facebook alone has over 350 million users communicating (and causing security alerts).

Blending Search Marketing and Social Media

It appears almost as if this exponential growth of the Internet is unceasing. Every time somebody plots the downfall of Google, they announce record profits. Every time a website fails, Friends Reunited, another takes its place and achieves an even greater audience, MySpace. But with more websites, more online stores, more social networking websites and more scams than ever before, are we in danger of sharing too much with the unseen world?

The advice is simple enough, don’t say anything you’re not comfortable with anybody else knowing and never offer information where it isn’t strictly necessary. But people will always fall foul of the traps that the wider world creates. Many subscribe to the theory that those with nothing to hide have nothing to worry about; however, personal details are now so readily passed on that suggesting any personal immunity would be very bold indeed.

As the worlds of search engine marketing and social media converge, the habits of both are seeping into the consciousness of the other. Twitter users target popular hashtags to attract followers with their interests, whilst SEOs do the same with search engine keywords to attract visitors. The Internet is increasingly becoming a forum for individuals and businesses to get themselves noticed, whatever the cost.

A cleanup is probably long overdue, so too is proper education – both for conducting yourself on social media and for ethically promoting your business online. Information, both useful and utterly useless, is in abundance wherever you look. The challenge therefore is to find a way to protect users and ensure that spammy practices are eradicated through the erosion of effectiveness; otherwise the future of the Internet could be, without getting too Orwellian, very bleak indeed.

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