Instead of requiring every single recipient of every single post to check the light-colored fine print that shows who the sender addressed it to, private posts on social networks should be unsharable on the network and the pictures should be undownloadable, just like Flickr photos are when the user selects certain rights options.
Of course, any recipient can take a screen shot. But when a screenshot is taken of a private photo, the sender of that photo should be notified of the fact.
In short, regular social networking posts should work like Poke.
In Poke, users always know exactly who they're sharing their text, pictures or video with. Pictures can't be saved. When screenshots are taken the sender is notified. All messages have an expiration date.
Poke lets you send messages that self-destruct one, three, five or 10 seconds after the recipient opens it -- the sender chooses which.
Regular posts on Facebook, however, last forever -- or, until the unlikely event that the user deletes his or her user account.
These are the two extremes of time-control offered to users on just about every service: 10 seconds, max -- or eternity. But why?
Why social post need expiration dates
Why are regular, permanent posts one thing and Poke is another? Why not simply provide good, Poke-like information about who's getting all Facebook posts? And why not give the option to set expiration dates for all Facebook posts - one, three, five or 10 seconds, one day, one month, one year, 10 years -- just let the user pick any expiration date.
Sure, expiration-date messaging exists. There are already services that will erase your messages after a user-determined amount of time.
But hardly anybody uses these. They're an obscure category of messaging, and feel somewhat shady to use, like you're trying to hide something.
What we really need is knowledge and control built right into social networks.
Until just a few years ago, communication was temporary. In order for humans to grow, change and move on with their lives, people need to forget the past. Forgetting is an under-appreciated requirement for social cohesion and personal progress.
As our communication services are currently structured, the Internet never forgets anything. A generation is entering the workforce and finding that pictures posted of their high school antics may cost them a job.