Early notions of modern democracy leaned heavily on the notion of a “social contract” — the idea that there’s a relationship between the governed and government, in which the people cede some rights in exchange for certain benefits. You give up the right to kill whomever you please and the government grants you a measure of security — that kind of thing. Both sides have a part to play. The deal doesn’t work if only one side lives up to the agreement.
In today’s lead story in SmartBrief on Social Media, Christina Gagnier is discussing online privacy standards when she makes a reference to “the evolving ‘social contract’ that should just be understood between platforms and their users.” Of course, she notes, there are substantial differences between the constitution of a sovereign state and the terms of service on a Web site. But the idea that we give up something in order to receive a benefit from a collective remains intact.
Social networks often feel very democratic — all those people, those conversations, those ideas! But is the comparison really apt?
Do you think users and networks share a “social contract”? Does that contract just refer to the terms of service, or is it something more? What are you personally willing to give up to secure the benefits that belonging to a social network confers? At what point do you decide the contract is no longer valid and “revolt” by leaving the network?
Image credit, Sergej Khakimullin, via Shutterstock