"People who don't see the Emperor's clothes usually get accused of lacking vision."
I'm still not touching it. It's more than subverting the trust relationship: It's commodifying it.
At base, that's what Friendster and its ilk are facilitating: The commodification of trust relationships. Once those relationships are commodified, trust itself becomes undermined. At least, any trust that digs deeper than the layer of humanity where all experience can be understood in terms of economic transactions.
That is, until some new basis for common trust.
One place to find that is in "faith" -- i.e., in communities of religious practice.
Another is in these "high-tech tribes" that folks like Cory Doctorow talk about without end. But since the tokens for entry to those tribes are relatively facile (blogrolling consistently over a period of time should do it), the "tribal" connections don't go very deep.
And at another level, it's more than a little insulting to even refer to them as "tribes". That's a term we've previously used to refer to very special communities of shared allegiance or experience or -- most often -- blood.
There is a tendency among people, to minimize the complexity of a thing once it has been described. So Sterling or Stephenson can describe new tribes, or Howard Rheingold can write books about them, and they suddenly enter the vocabulary and the consciosness. But the form is grossly simplified, in the kind of way that lets us see the Amish as lovable relics. Anyone giving Rumspringa more than a moment's casual thought should be prepared to make a simple leap: These are not simpletons; they have not recoiled from the world, but rather made a conscious choice to live in their own world, and we have about as much chance of understanding why as we do of chatting with Wittgenstein's lion.