While everyone is still twittering about the death of MySpace and the flight from FaceBook, I thought I’d take a few minutes to write down what I want from a social networking site, something that no one has yet provided. It could be the next insanely great thing.
Here it is: I want to be able to present myself online the same way I do in real life, and who I am often depends on where I am and who I’m with. Sure, I have a core personality. But I (and everyone else) have different personae.
- I am this one guy when I am talking to a roomful of healthcare professionals about medical tourism.
- I am another guy when I’m fixing a computer network or delousing a PC.
- I am yet another guy when I am writing and researching a book on sexual culture.
- I’m still yet another guy when … well, you get the idea.
And, online, I mostly have to be all those things at once. Sure, there are some ways around it. I have different web sites, different e-mail addresses; sometimes I rely on the pseudoanonymity of screen names. It’s not that I have anything in particular to hide — it’s that not all information needs to be available all the time. And I like to fine-tune what is available, be as nuanced as possible (and sometimes as brief as possible) in any giving setting. I do it about as well as it can be done, given the lack of appropriate tools.
FaceBook TRIES to address this by allowing you to place your friends into groups. Some can see all. Others can see some. And strangers can see anything from nothing to everything. But the privacy tools are ham-handed, clumsy.
What is needed, really, is a way to define myself in different ways, as opposed to a way to define my friends.
So the next really big, insanely great idea is a social networking site that will allow you to define different personae for yourself. Prisms.
There is a basic profile — how you would introduce yourself to anyone. “Hi I’m Jeff Schult. I’m a writer.”
Then I would have the corporate persona, available to people/and or web sites to whom I relate to that way. NOT necessarily available to Google, NOT necessarily searchable. Maybe I would list the persona on my main profile. Probably I would. But maybe I wouldn’t.
Then I might have my geek persona; my writer persona; my musician persona; my family persona; my flirting persona. Etc. And these would only be available to people and/or other web sites via my own choice; but would be controlled through one site, one interface.
My party animal persona — you know, the one that is demonized for college kids, the one where they post drunken, nude photos of themselves having sex while doing bong hits? No one could see that unless they were in my party animal persona tribe, which would be pretty damned small and trustworthy, by the way. There would be no hint that it even existed, to any potential employer or my mom and dad.
Well, I bet some people do.
If anyone has some venture money and wants to hire me to help build the successor to Facebook, you know where to find me.