Who needs God, when you’ve got Google?

Since I am still ploughing my way through survey analysis, here was a train of thought I took along the way…

Addressing the ignorance between generations
Firstly, there’s a bit of pattern emerging with people (and men in particular) over the age of 55 expressing a strong dislike over Facebook, with comments expressing concern over the fact this territory is dangerous, it’s for “sad” people and also the young and single.  Such extreme viewpoints will have grown from grains of truth somewhere, but we are talking about grains of truth here…. miniscule insight from trends which has been distorted into a relatively ugly ignorance grasped tightly by creatures of habit.

Social networking – it’s more than Facebook
My Facebook network is really important to me and though of course I’m closer to some people than others, there’s nobody in this network with whom I don’t want a personal connection and I’m immensely proud of the fact that I’ve kept in touch with people from school, various colleges and universities, work placements, jobs and that these friends actively keep in touch by messaging me, wall posts, commenting on blog posts and discussing links. I’m not on Facebook to be part of a popularity contest, for me it’s just another communication channel (and actually quite a creative one) to keep in touch with those folk I care about whether they’re “work friends”, people I’ve met through networking events and then stayed in touch with, community friends, party friends, school friends, uni friends, family (in touch with seven cousins, one uncle and of course my brother), friends of the family and even people I’ve never met, but have developed a friendship with through various planning projects. So of course, even though professionally I have to distance myself from this research it offends me when I see a lot of comments about Facebook being for “losers”, or “sad people”, “young single” people or those with “no life” etc.

The irrationality of online trust
And yet, there seems to be universal support and trust for Google, which i think isn’t entirely rational considering Google knows my search terms, it knows the content of my email (five years of data now),Google can track some of the ads I click on, Google knows who I’m connected to (ever found your “social circle” in Google’s search results?), it knows my interests and quite possibly much, much more. The power the Search giant has now is monumental and yet we blindly bitch about social networking without really understanding the complexity of the broader picture.

Google is lovely, but you still need to keep an open mind
OK, so at the moment, I can’t see Google providing much opportunity to groom young children or mask identities in a way that might be possible on Facebook, but this irrationality in online decision-making is very frustrating. Google is a company I trust at the moment and yes, probably more than Facebook, but who knows where this company is going…. It’ll take a lot of careful thinking (by us all) and planning to ensure Google never achieves a position where it is able to abuse this power.

We don’t know what sort of future we’re developing
A friend and a friend-of-a-friend were having a debate some months ago on whether a scientist who develops a fairly innocent piece of research can be blamed if his work is then developed for a more ethically complex solution at a later date. One friend argued that the scientist was always to blame for a destructive product even if their contribution was at a very early and abstract level. The other friend argued that this was ridiculous and that a scientist can’t be blamed for dubious applications of his work several generations of development later. If Google ever did become a destructive force (it’s just a question, I’m not being dramatic), what level of blame could be assigned to us, given the data we are happy to feed the search engine at the moment. Again, I’m not suggesting our trust in Google is misplaced, more that we live in socially complex times and Facebook is an easy target. Given the level of competition for trust between Search and word-of-mouth, there’s still a lot of potential for social networking to develop into a useful knowledge sharing community (it’s getting there), so even those mature doubters see it as a useful contribution to personal, professional and community evolution, not just a space to flirt with the kids.