I have a question.
I’ve written about the future of Facebook in project environments before, and I don’t hate the idea. But lately, I’ve been seeing so much “stuff” about Facebook that makes me wonder where we’re going. I know for sure we’re going somewhere, but I can’t see the destination.
If you search for PapercutPM on Facebook, you’ll find me. I reserved a page, but there’s nothing on it, and there’s a reason for that. A friend of mine’s sister tagged him in a photo where he’s drunk and passed out in a bathtub…the picture is twenty years old. My friend asked his sister to untag him, which she did, but that didn’t stop many of his friends from seeing the photo and commenting. He has work contacts on his Facebook page who could have seen the photo while it was up there. He was very upset.
I felt that was fairly cautionary. My twenties were hardly a time of personal responsibility. As trustworthy as I’ve become, I’m still human and had a youth. After all the hard work I’ve put into building my online presence, do I really want some random moment of disgraceful behaviour that got caught on camera appearing before my prospective clients? Not really.
But whether I like it or not, Facebook seems to be slowly usurping the web. “Sign in using Facebook”…”Log in with Facebook”…”Get access with your Facebook ID”. More and more, Facebook is infiltrating services I use, asking me to trust them. Twitter is doing the same thing, but Twitter doesn’t carry the same damaging potential. Take for example the following news stories:
- Should a teacher’s Facebook posts ruin her career
- Student denied teaching degree over MySpace photo
- Workers fired over Internet postings
- Facebook ‘sickie’ guy facing investigation
As human beings, we’re multifaceted. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Lee Iacocca, Hilary Clinton are all leaders. On their way to becoming leaders. I can guarantee all of them have had sex, misbehaved, gotten themselves in personal trouble, and made bad decisions. How effective would their journeys have been if all their dirty laundry were broadcast to the world every step of the way? How would the trust they built in the people around them have been hindered by a regular bombardment of less-than-savory news? That’s a side-effect of many social media sites, especially Facebook.
Yet Facebook’s ubiquity in the business world increases:
- How to make Facebook work for your business
- Friend Splitting: Doing personal AND business on Facebook
- 32 ways to use Facebook for business
- Business use of Twitter and Facebook exploding
Boundaries that were previously clear in terms of human interaction are getting pretty blurry.
So here’s my question. Are we headed for:
1) A world where boundaries diminish and we are exposed to all facets of people with whom we do business? What are the implications of that? Do we just ignore those traits that we’d rather not know about? How would you feel if, as you were cutting an important deal with someone, you found out they were an alcoholic or a drug user? What if you found out about some horrible scandal they’d gone through when they were younger (since the Internet’s memory is forever)? How would that affect your trust of them in regards to the deal you were making?
Okay, flip that around…what would you expect to happen if your deal’s counterparty found those things out about you during sensitive negotiations?
The Clinton / Lewinsky scandal of the late 90s showed us what happens when a leader’s dirty laundry is aired. “Who cares,” was the general sentiment in the world, but that didn’t stop the Republican Party or the press from pursuing the issue.
2) A world where people become extraordinarily guarded about what they publish on social media networks. What happens to information that was published before they became guarded? While people may become more circumspect about their publications, unless they’ve always been careful about their publications, information they don’t want divulged is still available.
And since Facebook lets others publish information about you and tag you with it, being guarded doesn’t really help. Also, there’s nothing to prevent others from publishing information about you that isn’t even true. “Libel suit,” you exclaim. Sure if you’ve got the money and can prove harmful intent. And the information is public so we’re back to the impact of sensitive information on business dealings. As always it’s the perception of impropriety that’s the most damaging…the facts aren’t always that important.
3) Some other world where there’s a massive seismic break in terms of how sites like Facebook work. Before social media, humans interacted with one another in specific ways. They used judgment about the information they did or did not divulge to individual parties (i.e., not talking about your sex life in front of your mother). Facebook is radically changing that–and we’re letting it. Will the currently 500 million Facebook users suddenly snap as one to this realization and pressure the company to change its operation?
I don’t know the answer to this question. Like I said, we’re headed someplace…I just don’t know where.
Morés have changed massively in the last hundred years. Regardless of topic, what was once a huge scandal is now boring and mundane. Perhaps we’re just headed to a place where people have incredibly long fuses and none but the most dastardly deeds cause harm to an individual’s reputation.
What do you think?
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