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Once a yes, always a yes?

Internet behaves in an unnatural way. What we are going to discuss in this post is rather a very relevant trend, most of us would have encountered some time or the other. We will be talking about three generic cases (hopefully resonating with your internal me too voices) as we move along. (1) It’s O(1) to like a page and O(n) to remove it effectively

We mean liking a page or following content is made so much easier, it’s just a click away. You would argue that removing it also a click away, yes? But guess what, in the majority of cases this doesn’t happen. Some pages you might unfollow if they come to your attention, but what about hundreds of others that never make it to your feed, thanks to all the personalized filtering. How do you unfollow them? Well, the typical way is to go to the list of liked pages and unfollow them one by one as deemed fit, in the worst case you have to go through ’n’ pages in order to unfollow the one page, hence the increased complexity. It’s only by design that the filtered newsfeed and exploding content makes us retain and exposed to a lot of uninteresting crap. While Gmail and Instagram have made it relatively easy to unsubscribe irrelevant content, other mediums should also adopt, the “one-click to unfollow” approach. Nonetheless, the O(n) discussed above would need some real design changes. (2) You’re not friends with EVERYONE Come on, as humans, we cannot befriend everyone we have on our social media. Even Science says a human being has a biological limit to bond with at max 150 people simultaneously. The issue we have with present-day social media is not just the ever-growing list of people who get added to our friend list, it’s about the permanence of it.

The notions of friendship on the web is nowhere close to reality.

Keeping aside the number for once, in reality, the group of people we are associated with changes as we grow. The “incidents” that make a person our friend or foe or unknown don’t happen online and hence the platforms just can’t account for that. New people come, get added to friend list, but then certain people leave your life as well, should you be then having them in your friend list and get exposed to their life events? What do we mean when we drive ourselves away from people, we genuinely lose interest in them and their life activities, but if they are still added to the list, you’re still exposed to content you aren’t interested in. This can be significantly observed when people from your high school, college, profession, or hobby clubs are all added to your list. As you grow up there are chances you have lost touch with many of your schoolmates, but still, you’d be knowing who’s getting married, is this info really relevant or useful? There are pros and cons. Yea, some of you might feel nostalgic, but again the concept we are questioning is the one leading to information overload and leading to unrealistic connections that are not being realized in actual life.

This leads to a lot of vague connections never realized in real life

(3) Yes, you can have my data. Always? Whenever we install an application, it asks for permissions to have access to some of our data. If we are really interested, we agree and share our data with the app. But will I be wanting to share my data, “always”, down the lane? For example, initially, I had contacts of my school friends, I shared my phone contacts, but time rolled out, I grew up and now I have contacts of top-secret agents (or some folks whose contact shouldn’t be out in public, say, president or someone, just a hypothetical case), will I be wanting to share my phone contacts still? The answer is no. So what should I do? You might say, go to Settings, withdraw the permissions, but the problem doesn’t end here. What if the data has already been shared after I added the super-secretive person’s contact? How feasible is it to withdraw the permission before adding that contact?

At the time of adding this new valuable contact, would you remember that you have this information shared with some XYZ app (out of hundreds of apps you’ve installed) you installed years back?

This doesn’t look very feasible to me. Nonetheless, let me withdraw the permission, voila, no more data will be shared! But wait a minute, what has happened to the data I already shared? Is it preserved or removed? How would I know? Who all are using it? Will that always stay? Can all it’s copies be removed? How many copies are there? All these questions still lie open and un-addressed.

The thing is, “time” is not accounted for in all the above things. With time the context changes and data explodes and sadly, technology, as of today doesn’t account for it. Summarizing the points above, this is our current state:

Yes, I like your page: It’s difficult to pinpoint and unsubscribe otherwise Yes, you’re my friend: I am unaware of how social bonds are maintained online. Confined by digital obligations, I cannot stop seeing you despite you had killed me once. Yes, you have my data: I don’t know the retention of it across multiple servers, it’s shared before I can restrict it. You access my storage, tomorrow if I store gold in it, you’ll have it.

What is your opinion? How’d you suggest handling this issue as a developer or user? Let us know in the comments below. Do you believe technology should run on this concept, do you believe once a yes, is always a yes? Think about it! I’ll see you in the next post soon, till then keep wondering and analyzing the tech that surrounds you 24x7 ! Take care.


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