What we’re seeing is the birth pains of a third generation of social networking.
The first generation was email/IM buddy lists. These allowed us to connect and keep track of our people across distance and time in a way that was more efficient and more seamless than ever before. We knew who was on our lists and we managed the connections. Visibility was limited but we were hooked.
The second generation is our current crop led by Friendster and now MySpace/LiveJournal/Facebook. These sites allow for users to keep track of one another and add a layer of visibility that was quite dramatic when first ‘discovered’. Users were very excited about sharing pictures and collecting as many friends as possible because all these were visible to those who were watching. It was like the mall and middle school all over again. To be seen was the thing.
The third generation will expose the history of this visibility. The full history of what you’ve done in the network. A record of how you’ve behaved in the past will be available in the future. This will (and should) affect your behavior and your friend lists and your decision about which pictures to post.