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Opinion

Digital Social Visibility: How Facebook Gifts Change Our Choices

By Lauren Rhue, Doctoral Candidate in Information, Operations and Management Sciences, and Arun Sundararajan, Associate Professor of Information, Operations and Management Sciences, NEC Faculty Fellow & Doctoral Coordinator

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Digital social visibility is therefore a double-edged sword: As we transcend the boundaries of physical space and time, we also give up the familiar anchors and cues provided in our face-to-face interactions.

Facebook Gifts rolled out after a two-month beta last week, seamlessly melding social with shopping. Not to be outdone, Amazon recently released its Friends and Family Gifting option with the same kind of social gifting visibility.

For Facebook, another puzzle piece of its business model falls into place. For users, gift giving becomes by default a public rather than private activity: People can now fluidly and visibly give their friends holiday presents ranging from iTunes cards to Chandon champagne.

For our culture, however, an era of subtlety and “secret” Santa gives way to the era of reality TV. In many ways social gifting shrouds purchasing in a cloak of generosity, since the social streaming context removes the gaucheness of sharing these gifts. Yet these new social features also signal a culture where broadcasting our behaviors – whether gifting or other digitally shared activities – becomes the norm rather than the exception.

Digital social visibility doesn’t just turn our private lives inside out, though: It changes the choices we make, both online and offline.

Read full article as published in WIRED.