Have you ever wondered how many social media accounts the average person has? As of early 2015, the answer was 5.5. It may be slightly more now, but 5.5 is probably close.
Think about the inefficiency of this for a minute. The average person believes they need more than five accounts to connect with their digital world socially.
How many email addresses do most people need? Usually, they need no more than two: a personal and a professional address. What about phone numbers? Again, the answer is two or three (i.e., personal, work, and mobile). And many people have chosen to use their mobile device for all purposes or use a service like Google Voice to consolidate their contact info into to a single number.
I was listening to live performance of an A Capella group at a Disney theme park a few days ago. After their performance, the lead vocalist was engaging the crowd and started listing off their social contact info. Here’s their spiel about how to connect with them (starting at about 10:07):
We are so happy that we can spend today with you but we wanted to last longer than just today and that's why we do social media. So you'll find us on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even SnapChat...
Seriously? So, in order for a university vocal group to interact with potential fans, they have to use five different networks?
Personally, I find this to be completely obnoxious. In my opinion, it’s a failure of the technical community to step up and complain about the lack of open standards. E-mail works for everyone, no matter who their email provider is because of open standards. All of the different email services communicate with each other, you can download your messages from one provider and import them into another, and you can even use forwarding and aliasing to consolidate or dilate contact information as you see fit. Can you imagine how much better social media would be if it were so flexible?
But beyond my personal frustration, I believe that this service redundancy is also problematic for security reasons. The need for so many social media accounts, many of which are configured to share information between the different services, increase the attack surface for would-be hackers. Users have to remember more passwords, and bad guys get to probe more API’s, servers, and protocols for weaknesses.
Certainly, these issues are small compared to many more pressing security concerns. Nevertheless, it seems likely that they will grow in significance and quantity as social media continues to grow and mature.