I recently had a conversation with Ricochet's publisher in which we discussed the pros and cons of the Washington Post's social reader. For those not familiar with the Facebook app, the social reader tracks every story you read on WaPo's site and displays it on your Facebook wall (and in your friends' Facebook feeds) for all to see. After you agree to use the app, you're never again asked whether you want to "share" the article; the social reader will share it automatically without troubling you. For instance, I see that Claire Berlinski recently read–surprise, surprise!–an article titled "Turkey is accused of using chemical weapons against Kurdish soldiers" in the Washington Post.
In my conversation with Ricochet's publisher, I argued that I found the app compelling; seeing the list of my friends' recently read articles compels me to read the articles myself. If I like and admire a certain Facebook friend, I read the article so that I can see what they find fascinating. If I think a certain friend has a head full of silly ideas, I read the article so that I can secretly judge that friend and relish a moment of smug condescension. Either way, I'm reading the articles that are passively shared. This, I argue, is an app that Ricochet might want to look into.
"Frankly, I find it all too creepy," Ricochet's publisher responded. The idea that every page you open up and take a passing glance at would be tracked and shared with the world just seems to cross a line, he explained. "Consider too," he continued, "that many of Ricochet's Members are red dots in blue blobs. They're certainly not going to want to publicize every politically-charged post they read on their Facebook walls."
And so for the time being, we've tabled the conversation.
That conversation, however, raises the question of what's appropriate to share with one's friends and contacts on Facebook, and what constitutes too much information (TMI). I have no problem with the idea of folks sharing their reading activity with the world (though I wouldn't choose to do so myself), nor do I mind if folks feel the need to share the track information to each and every song they listen to throughout the day (using apps like Spotify, for example). But I do find it obnoxious to see status updates that recount each and every calorie consumed in a day. And while I'm happy to hear of friends' decisions to grow their families, I find play by plays of recent OB/GYN appointments and thorough descriptions of the day's morning sickness to be distasteful.
Everyone has a line in their mind's eye between what's appropriate to share on a public forum like Facebook, and what's not. The problem, I think, is that there's no consensus about where this line exists.