The Social Media Trust Issue: When You Know Everyone, You Trust No One


Social networking allows us to do many things, though the focus is often on keeping up with the daily activities of friends, random acquaintances, and, in some cases, strangers. But do you really trust these people?

AdAge points to a recent survey taken by Edelman, which notes that people are actually trusting the opinions of their friends less, thanks to the influences of social networking. As Michael Bush of AdAge writes, “the number of people who view their friends and peers as credible sources of information about a company dropped by almost half, from 45% to 25%, since 2008.”

The trust drop is attributed mainly to information overload: when everyone is tweeting and posting their opinions all over the place, it’s hard for consumers to figure out which “voices” to trust. The expanded notion of what constitutes an actual “friend,” thanks to the vague Facebook-type definition, may also be to blame.

While the AdAge article is focused mainly on consumerism, the notion that people may be trusting their friend’s opinions less due to too much information could easily be applied to social situations as well. Being a silent participant in the lives of others allows you to perhaps know things about them you’d rather not know, and it makes it incredibly easy to write people off once they’ve posted something that doesn’t necessarily fit in with your own personal view of the world. Maybe you would have trusted Billy from college when it came to a certain TV show three years ago, but now that you’ve sat through 800 status updates about his bowel movements, you might be less likely to give a shit about what “the shit guy” has to say.

It could also be argued that the filters we put into place while socializing online restrict us from being totally honest ourselves: we choose what to share with others, and we choose, in the interest of politeness, to attempt to avoid the overshares of those we’ve become “friends” with via social networking. Yes, you want to write “please shut up about your hubby” to Alice, whom you vaguely remember as “the girl who wanted to grow up and open a unicorn store” from 7th grade, but you’re “friends!” And adults! And friendly adults maintain the same manners they do offline: avoid, ignore, mock openly with shared friends when the offender is out of the picture. That’s how your Mama raised you, is it not? We all filter ourselves online, just like we do when we go to a party filled with people we’ve never met before: you keep your true self somewhat hidden in an attempt to project the image you want the world to have of you. Only your true friends really get beyond that image, and online, they’re the the ones you have locked into your very super special secret privacy settings.

So what say you, commenters? Do you find that you trust people less thanks to social networking? Or are you more inclined to open up to semi-strangers from behind the safety of your computer screen?

Social Media: Consumers Trust Their Friends Less [AdAge]

[Image Via AllMoviePhoto]

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