The social media revolution
By James Montigny
Cubmaster (Pack 124)
The social media revolution has had profound impacts on both the way I behave and in the way my workplace operates. What were previously a number of very distinct and non-overlapping worlds have become a single soup of existence from which all of my actions are interpreted by everyone I know.
Jason Alexander, playing George Costanza put it best when he described his worlds theory in a 1995 episode of Seinfeld, “a George divided against itself cannot stand”. Prior to the social media revolution, the person I was with my wife, my technical co-workers, my Scouts and my automotive performance enthusiast friends could remain independent and conform to the social norms of each environment. Once thrust together by the evolution of social networking, all worlds became one. This meant consolidating my online and real-world personalities into a single reflection of me for all to see and interpret. It forced me to consider my actions against the backdrop of ethical stances I had taken in my life. The change was difficult at first and remnants of past personas littered Google search results, but over time I became as comfortable being myself on the internet as I had learned to be with those I knew and loved. It also allowed me to make connections with people I has known for years, but had failed to realize that common ground existed outside of the familiar confines provided by the one environment in which I knew them. I learned that my manager was also a scout leader, some of my coworkers also enjoyed building engines, even my children’s sporting activities provided connections with people from other worlds. Unlike Alexander’s situation, the various personas did not seek to annihilate each other; instead they merged into a single, comfortable me. In the end, the change complimented a phase of increased awareness and maturity in my life.
Beyond the personalities we customize for our environments, the social media revolution has also changed the way we work. The public nature of sharing information on the internet has generated a significantly greater need for self-censorship. What might previously have seemed like a harmless rant to relieve stress from a difficult day could easily become a public display of unprofessionalism or worse, become a key display in a human resources interview on harassment or defamation of character. Professional advice shared amongst industry experts must be reviewed to ensure that they do not include unintentional leaks of sensitive information or corporate secrets. The way in which I was judged as a prospective employee could now be judged against every comment I had ever dashed off in an internet forum, as could the comments of prospective interviewers shape the way I interpret interview questions. This quickly led to new guidelines from businesses seeking to protect confidential information, corporate image and competitive advantages over the competition. The social media revolution took many of the incidents occurring behind closed doors and threw them to the street for all to see. This has caused many to think twice before making unethical decisions or engaging in questionable business practices.
Life as a networking professional also allowed me to leverage social media to make connections with acquaintances of acquaintances, to build a network of peers, mentors and students. This meant that I could find solutions and advice from a greater number of sources with little effort; I could also make connections with trusted resources and solve problems faster and with greater precision regardless of geographic location. This has led to greater respect amongst technical resources in the industry and local markets and greatly reduced the unnecessary and unwarranted criticism that often takes place when one consultant reviews or audits the work of another.
The social networking revolution has changed the way I see the world and the way the world sees me, it has caused me to further consider the repercussions of my actions and words and it has forced me to shed the fig leaf of internet pseudo anonymity. It has made people accountable for their actions and caused corporations to take yet another form of communication into consideration. All of these things have profoundly changed the world in which we live and work.