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Preparing for a social media world — Online Collaboration

June 19, 2011

All the world’s a stage. – Shakespeare

Technology is rapidly changing, becoming more social and is quickly becoming an integrated part of our lives. With ever-evolving devices, social networks, and online video capabilities, we’re increasingly moving toward an “always on” existence.

Yet it’s almost as if a strange dichotomy exists: on one hand, we’re steadily moving in this new direction where Facebook and Twitter are a central part of our lives, but on the other, many of us are still slow to adopt video and video conferencing. While a great number of people are embracing constant connectivity, others seem to be too leery of the close-up.

The spy in your living room

An acquaintance of mine has a bad habit of recording people on his cell phone without their knowledge or consent. While casually hanging out with friends or family, it’s common to catch him capturing video of someone in the group and jokingly saying that he’s posting it to Facebook. It’s really annoying, but it also shows how when we could innocently be in the company of others without worrying that the things we say or do will end up broadcasted online are gone.

We advise teenagers and college students not to post lewd or indecent photos of themselves online, as they might come back to haunt them in future job searches and so on, but what about our own everyday conduct? Are we comfortable having that streamed live to the world 24/7?

In effect, life is becoming an all-access, behind-the-scenes pass where anyone with a cell phone and an Internet connection can follow us wherever we go, watching and recording everything we say and do.

Our resistance to the spotlight

Certainly, one could argue that this brave new world of social media, with no privacy and complete (perhaps to a fault) transparency, means greater truth and authenticity, but for most of us, I think there are certain times when we want to be able to let our guard down, and that doesn’t mean that we’re being dishonest or that we’re hiding our “real selves” — quite the contrary, during those times, we might feel the least like ourselves and don’t want that to be how we are ultimately perceived by those around us or by anyone online, especially those who generally see us in a more professional light.

Feeling as if we’re always in the spotlight also has the potential for leading us to a lack of intimacy and closeness with people in general, since relationships restricted to those created online often lack depth and meaning. For example, if we have sensitive conversations with close friends or family members, we might divulge details or thoughts to that person, as we’re in the process of developing our opinions around the subject. That doesn’t mean that those details are our opinions, but rather are helping us form our opinions, and the conversation itself is very much a part of that process. If we’re never allowed to have those types of conversations, how will that impact us developmentally and socially? At some point, there have to be boundaries to what gets broadcasted to the world and to what is considered for or against our reputations, online or off.

In short, we can’t be polished and professional at all times, nor can we ever be perfect — we’re human, and being human means bad days, bad moods, and even slumps sometimes. Yet the reality of our world today is that everything we say or do is displayed as if on an overhead projector, and we’re keenly aware of the fact that first impressions count, so how do we find the balance so that what we say or do today doesn’t come back to bite us tomorrow and so that we don’t become today’s version of Stepford wives, behaving just so, in order to avoid a bad rap?

How are you handling being “always on”?

Photo courtesy Flickr user Malias

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