A lot has been written about how people “go crazy” on social networks. This has led many in government to say that more needs to be done to protect privacy. That many may not become employable as their poor behavior becomes public. Some have even said that people should have the right to erase their life from the internet. The right to be forgotten. Others put a big emphasis on rebuilding privacy around individuals despite the ever increasing popularity of compulsive sharing. The idea of some legislators is that the internet and social networks are bound to destroy somebody’s reputation sooner or later and people need protection from their own disclosures. That social networks show their worst behavior. That people go wild on the internet.

My view on this is quite the contrary. People don’t join social networks to destroy their reputation but to make themselves look good. Social networks have the same effect on people that classrooms have on children. Users behave better and are more honest in them because they are being constantly watched by others and want to impress them. And most social networks have “teachers” who show up in the famous “report abuse” buttons. Social networks have rules and their own etiquette and people live by them.

The fear of alienation and ridicule from peers also acts a great deterrent. Friends who frequently see what you do and think, who you know, who see your location, your pictures, your videos, your tweets, your updates, act as a moderating influence in your life. Before people occasionally knew what you did and chances for poor behavior were greater. Now they are being watched. But because most people want to be liked. They behave better. So you can see my point: living a life being watched makes people, on the average, better and more honest. And that is good.

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

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Peter Beilin on January 18, 2011  · 

Eduardo Lina on January 20, 2011  · 

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