Article appeared in the SF Chronicackle today by Mike Elgan of Computerworld on the "Five Stages of Facebook Grief." Again he focuses on the lack of security and discovering that others outside of your immediate circle can find out stuff about you.
Let me make it very clear: If you don't want to participate in a particular aspect of society ore society itself, you don't have to.
You don't need an iPhone to survive (I don't) You don't need to be on Facebook or Twitter or Gowalla or any other kind of social network. You also don't have to join Kiwanis, or a gym or a church or watch TV or listen to the radio. You can abandon your car and home, fill a garbage bag with clothes and a hunting knife and go live in a cave in the Sierras.
But when you are looking to buy something, sell something, look for a job, hire someone, get some information, get a point of view that you might value, find a vacation home in a foreign country, get an introduction to an influential person... well, you are going to have to participate in some social activity where you interact with another human being.
Social media is a medium, just like a piece of paper. If you put your name and phone number on a hundred Post-it notes and spread them around your neighborhood, chances are someone is going to call you. A telephone is a medium. If you have one, one day you might get a call from someone you don't know because they dialed your number by mistake. They might even hack into your line and buy porn from it. If you use a medium to communicate with someone, it's possible that it might be misused and it's possible that you might waste your time using it (how many brochures have you read that you felt were a waste of your time?)
Elgan brings up some real-world examples, like the guy who had pictures taken of him throwing up after a binge drunk, posted on Facebook and his grandparents saw them. That's supposed to be an example of why social media was bad. Let me restate: The fact that the guy is binge drinking is not bad. That the grandparents saw him binge drinking is bad. Maybe I have a different family dynamic, but if I did something bad as a young person, my parents generally were able to figure it out because we had a close enough community that they would find out about it. I knew this to be true. As a result, I avoided doing a lot of stupid stuff growing up. I did stupid stuff, but I did not do some others.
The fact is we think it's OK to lie, cheat and steal as long as we don't get caught and as long as we don't cross the line as to where WE think that line is. We've developed that attitude over decades of being "private people." But in our privacy we also become isolated and alone. When disaster hits we find we have no one to turn to and blame others for our misery, when if we had just been a bit more social, we might have easily found comfort and direction.
This extends to the corporate world where marketing philosophies isolate the corporation from the real world. Messages are highly controlled and insular. As long as everything is going well, it doesn't seem to matter, but when thing go wrong, the attitude that that we can control the message cuts the company off from reality and bad decisions are made. Social withdrawal makes the situation even worse.
I have friends and clients that eschew social media and in some cases it is a justified position. It is especially appropriate when you actually want to limit who you interact with. But at the same time, those people are generally miserable and pessimistic.
What we have to realize is that we are not only in this together, but none of us are getting out of here alive. Benjamin Franklin said, "We must all hang together or we will all hang separately." John Donne said it better, though: