by Jonathan

So many social networking sites got started by somebody saying, hey, I think this picture/song/band/whatever is great and I want to share it with my friends….and before you can say MySpace that person has thousands of “friends” who are also passionate in their opinion that the picture/song/band/whatever in question is great.

Having friends is great; really, it is. We’re not against friends in the least. Having a support network that can shore you up against a sea of doubt is great, too. If you think Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Ole Oak Tree is the best song ever produced, a virtual room full of friends reassuring you that you’re right will boost your confidence like nothing else.

The problem is, a social network of like-minded people agreeing with you doesn’t make the thing you’re all agreeing about true. All it means is that there’s a bunch of people standing around agreeing with you. “You’re absolutely bang-on about that song” has ominous echos of “Ah, emperor, that suit looks positively dashing on you.” And when you start thinking it’s true because you’re getting so may positive strokes from the network, you’re stuck in group-think, and there’s a real risk of careening wildly off the roads of a more broadly shared objective reality.

What all social networks need―and I include the social network revolving around ThinkFree in this statement―is a way to spice up the conversation with the unexpected, the serendipitous. All it really takes is one kid to say “but mom, the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes,” and reality floods the scene. We need our social networks not just to support and reaffirm us, but to challenge us and test our beliefs and opinions.

Sometimes it’s far more instructive to seek out the opinions of the people who disagree with what we’re thinking. We may never come around to see things their way, but we may learn more about ourselves, our positions, and the things about which we feel passionate. And that’s a good thing.

We might even agree that it’s a great thing.

What do you think?

source: thinkfree blog