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The Social Contract 2.0

This post is the first of a four-part series on privacy in the Social World which attempts to answer many common questions about the intersection between private and social.  If you have a question that you’d like answered, leave a comment and let me know!  Thanks for reading!

The Social Contract 2.0

Revisiting Rousseau...250 Years Later

Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote The Social Contract, Or Principals of Political Right (Du contrat social ou Principes du droit politique) in 1762, in which he outlined his philosophy on how individuals form a political community.  In short, Rousseau proposed that in order to achieve an effective political society, man must enter into a social contract with others, forfeiting a certain amount of freedom to the political authority for the benefit of the entire community.

We must also enter into a Social Contract 2.0 to establish a successful social community.  Whereas in forming a political community, man is asked to sacrifice bits of freedom for the good of the whole, in forming a social community, man is asked to sacrifice bits of privacy for the good of the whole.  Under the Social Contract 2.0, when everyone sacrifices the same amount of privacy, the entire community benefits from the information shared and the connections fostered.

At its heart, social is a way of being, and not a predefined strategy or set of rules.  Social is also not a new concept – we are all inherently social, and give up little pieces of privacy in all of our social interactions.  As an individual progresses from acquaintance, to friend, to confidant, they gain progressively more access into our private lives (and gain more of our trust).  What makes the social world, and the contract that governs it, different from our day-to-day interactions is the scale and permanence of the new Social World.  What is said on the Internet is instantly available to millions (billions?), and often cannot be unsaid.

The Social Contract 2.0 asks us to accept this exposure and give up bits of privacy (my name, my image, my email address, etc.) for the overall benefit of the Social World.  By doing so, and forming connections with others, we establish a social community in which ideas can be openly shared, freed from the silos of isolation.

In future posts, I will try to answer a few questions about privacy in the new Social World:

  1. How much, and what, should I share?
  2. How much have I already shared that I may or may not know about? (with tools and tips on determining your current level of exposure)
  3. How can I balance my desire to maintain privacy with my desire to be social?
  4. Should I even engage in social networking if I really, really value my privacy?

If you have any more questions on privacy, the new Social World, or the Social Contract 2.0, let me know in the comments and I’ll address as many as I can!  And as always, thanks for reading!

Update: Check out Mashable for some great insights on why uber-privacy isn’t always great.

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  1. May 18, 2010 at 10:59 am

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