Why Do We Trust So Easily On Social Media?

With Web 2.0 being such a turning point for an influx of user generated content and collaboration it is only natural that at some point we wonder, with all this information we’re sharing, whom are we sharing it with, and is it safe? However, even if we do stop to ask this, it’s highly unlikely that this is going to turn us away from ever logging into social media again. More likely than not, we simply decide to take our chances.

Sonja Grabner-Krauter conducted a study looking into why we put such seemingly blind trust into social networking sites by creating groups of users in Facebook, StudiVZ, and Zing to determine their different attitudes regarding privacy and trust online (Grabner-Krauter). Upon first glance Grabner-Krauter’s paper seems as if it does not really delve into the specifics of the study, which in some ways, it is at fault for not doing because we never actually get to see what the results of the study are. However it clearly and succinctly lays out an explanation of why it is we approach these networking sites with such trust.

We’ve already been introduced to the idea of “social networking” appearing as a result of the explosion of Web 2.0 through Ellison and Boyd. As Ellison and Boyd’s paper explains, Web 2.0 created an era of user generated content that allowed for networks and communities to form based around common topics of interest (Boyd). Grabner-Krauter takes us a step further into the social networking group dynamics that Web 2.0 created, all of which are centered on user-generated content and user interaction, characteristic of Web 2.0 sites (Grabner-Krauter).

According to Grabner-Krauter, every time you go online, hit “like” on your friend’s new profile picture, or retweet something that made you laugh on Twitter, you are gaining “social capital” (Grabner-Krauter), which is giving you a more enjoyable experience on the site, and therefore increasing your trust in the website. It’s really quite intuitive- the better your impression of the website, the better your experiences on the website, and the stronger your network, the more likely you are to trust it with your personal information.

Like we’ve discussed in lecture, Web 2.0 technologies were intended for a lateral connection, rather than the Internet hierarchy that existed during the Web 1.0 era. We discussed the Californian Ideology during the birth of Web 2.0, and the hackers, zine-publishers; activists were all celebrating Web 2.0 for the connections that it allowed users to share with each other. People were meant to connect with each other, and user-interaction is the driving force that keeps Web 2.0 alive. The social networking that emerged as a result of Web 2.0 is such a huge part of our lives, that I see the consequent blind trust as almost intuitive and subconscious. So next time you’re warned about strangers on the Internet, know that you are simply doing your part as a member of Web 2.0’s social networking community.

Works Cited

Grabner-Krauter, Sonja. “Web 2.0 Social Networks: The Role of Trust”. Journal of Business Ethics, 2009, pp. 505–522

Boyd, Danah, and Ellison, Nicole. “Sociality Through Social Network Sites”. The Oxford Handbook of Internet Studies, 2013, pp. 150–172

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