The PC World headline calls it "next-generation social networking." Researchers at the Rochester Institute of Technology are saying exactly what UK teens told Prof. Sonia Livingstone in her study (see "Fictionalizing their profiles"): that social sites need more ways to characterize friends and more options for what anybody can see in a profile. They need to reflect socializing in the "real world" more. "Many social-networking sites essentially force users to become part of a huge community, or they force users to choose whether someone else is a friend or not, with no other subtleties defining that relationship," Liz Lawley, director of RIT's social-computing lab, told a Microsoft-sponsored conference of researchers, PC World reports. Thinking and operating in binaries – friend or non-friend, private or public – instead of in the more subtle gradations of human relationships and intimacy just doesn't work, avid online socializers find. It'll be interesting to see how soon social-networking sites do something about this.
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