It’s a question that comes up constantly in our digital lives, and it’s also a subject of great fascination to internet scholars in a range of fields.  While you clutch your credit card, wondering whether it’s safe to make a purchase on a new e-commerce site, business researchers are busily delving into the factors that will or won’t lead you to click the “buy” button. While thousands of women flip through online dating sites, wondering if the single men they are looking at are really single, there are dozens of psych researchers investigating the trust dynamics of online dating. And while social media users scan the latest headlines, wondering which new stories are actually fake, sociologists and political scientists debate whether the Internet can support the kind of trust necessary for real political and community engagement.

Yet the very idea of online trust can feel like an oxymoron, particularly when we compare it to what offline trust can look like. That’s what’s struck me as I watched Odysseo, a horse and acrobatics show put on by the circus company Cavalia. I was invited to an Odysseo performance in Vancouver as part of social media week, presumably so that my various social media presences could shed light on the show. Instead, the performance cast fresh light on my social media existence, and in particular, on the role of trust in our online lives.

I was struck by how the act of “trusting” a circle of friends on social media pales in comparison with trusting a fellow acrobat to dangle you by the wrist, thirty feet in the air. And how hard is it to trust a fellow human, compared with trusting a horse not to trample your head — while you’re climbing underneath it as it gallops around a ring at 40 MPH?  How about trusting the entire chain of people who have stacked and interlocked themselves together in order to boost you twelve feet in the air?

Video and much more HERE

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