Yes, it has been a while since I've written anything meaningful on this thing. It makes you wonder why I keep it, huh? But I went to this conference/seminar yesterday about social networking and decided it was time for me to get back to working on this and writing up my viewpoints and such here.
It was a great seminar offered by the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs and Executives. The speakers were great - informative and inspirational. And now I feel like less of a dope about social networking and can actually give some decent advice to my clients about it.
The speakers talked a lot about social networks, open source code, the concept of sharing and openness in business. It seems that through the Internet the world is getting smaller and smaller - both a good and bad thing. What alarmed me the most was how the professional realm responded to social Web sites and the blur between social and professional behavior. I am one who doesn't keep a lot of boundaries (although my friends reading this will probably say right now I'm a liar and I have more secrets than most dysfunctional families, but moving on...), but I was shocked at how many potential employers judge prospects by what is on their facebook or myspace pages. I mean, that's personal space! I can see if you are an employee of a company and there is a policy that HR will do a search on your name and work email address to be sure it's all clean and of a professional image, that makes sense. And at that point, your existence is an extension of the company brand (unless you don't agree to that type of culture and it's time to get a new job anyway). But if you aren't part of that culture, I find that practice intrusive into your personal life.
Until you are part of an organization (i.e. organism) and share in the personality, then you are free to do what you want online and in life. What scares me about social networking is that we are creating a world where we are less people and more in buckets. Sure, we do that already, but if we have to censor ourselves all the time and always wonder what work people will think of us or what our friends will think of us, how will we ever live? It's almost like we are in a world the size of a village where we worry about what our neighbors will think. Isn't that why some people move to cities? So they can have freedom? Or they move to a log cabin in the middle of the forest? Just to be themselves? I hate that at times I have to censor myself but I do it at work sometimes to keep an image. Ok, so come to think about it - I'm not really that open as I like to think, but then again, is anyone in general unless you are very close friends?
I guess it is all a balance. I worked in a company where we did a search on some executives to see what would come up as links and we found a sales guy posting his favorite porn sites on a personal page. Now, sure, it was pretty funny to see the links, but at the same time, we told him to remove it because it hurt the brand. He agreed. I think that's ok, but not hiring someone because they made a bad decision in their personal life and posted it on myspace and you as an employer taking the time to google the person and invading his or her personal space like a private investigator and actually review not professional info but personal info? Who really has the brand problem? I guess a company like that doesn't value privacy as a core value.
Next time - trust, boundaries, and brands and how social networking works in that arena.