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Disposable social media. Blink and you'll miss it

How many times have you sent a tweet or updated your Facebook status and regretted it moments later? I know I have on occasion – maybe because I posted something after a glass of wine too many, or (cue vanity) because no one on Facebook “Liked” my status.

In times like these we would probably welcome “disposable social media”. That is, social media content that won’t last forever – think along the lines of Snapchat or Facebook Poke.

Reading a blog post by Net Jacobsson about the rise of disposable media sparked a a thought…in an age where data privacy seems to be a top concern for many, is disposable content a possible future for social media?

Just this week Facebook admitted to a year-long data breach exposing 6 million users’ phone numbers and email addresses. It’s scary to think that an unauthorised person could have hold of this information. But it became a real nightmare when it was revealed that many of the exposed phone numbers and email addresses were those of Facebook users who had never knowingly shared that information on Facebook. So how can Facebook know that data if its never been shared with them? Say hello to your “friend” the shadow profile. This Mashable article will tell you everything you need to know about that.

So how does this tie in with the idea of disposable social media? Well, if your content were disposable, anything you say or share wouldn’t be kept. It would, in essence, self-destruct. For companies this could provide a low-risk marketing tactic. And for users, those drunken Facebook statuses would be gone the following morning, and the likelihood of our personal data being leaked might be smaller. Great!

Or is it?

Like it or not, every “like”, check-in, or status update is a valuable piece of information for companies, and the mining of this data can actually be beneficial. It allows businesses to serve up ads which are relevant to us consumers based on our interests, location, or browsing history. So, if your status is disposable/self-destructing, that data is gone after a period of time. Boom. It can’t be used against you by a stalker, or by a brand that simply wants you to buy a product which might actually be of interest to you. Without our social data, we’re likely to be inundated by irrelevant adverts which are, to put it plainly, downright annoying.

So does “disposable social media” have potential to be the next big thing, and if so, in what form?

Some may argue “disposable social media” does already exist on Facebook, which lets you hide posts from your Timeline. This isn’t the same thing. Your post may be hidden from the public domain, but Facebook still holds that data, and it can still be used against you.

My view is that disposable social media won’t take off on a mass-scale any time soon. Yes, Snapchat has been successful in finding a niche for pictures that disappear after a few seconds, but people like browsing through their Facebook Timelines and cringing at their social history. And if consumers want to continue to receive targeted marketing messages and personalised products, we need to keep our likes and check-ins available to social networks. So all I can really say is – be careful what you say/share on social media. And if Facebook’s Shadow Profiles are anything to go by…be careful who your friends are.