The arrival of any bold, new technology is greeted with a mixture of excitement and skepticism. Psychologists and ethicists express grounded fears about the ways the new product will guide us unconsciously into habitual behaviors with negative health consequences. Early adopters focus instead on the benefits, which usually involve faster, more efficient ways of getting things done.
Both are right, of course, because technology is morally neutral (although it might be argued that some technology – weaponry, for example – contains a moral tendency in utero). Researchers are finding, for example, that the wealth of data people are sharing via social networks is a goldmine for public health researchers. At the same time, that data is being used by advertisers to target consumers more effectively, which is morally ambivalent at best, invasive and predatory at worst.
One thing is for certain – we've only begun to understand the possible forms and uses of social networking, which holds tremendous potential for economic and cultural change.