Thursday, May 26, 2011

The dark side of constantly being in touch through social media

I'm intrigued by the power of social media to network. It brings us new ways of communicating and knowing what's going on. As someone who believes in the power of learning from your peer groups (within communities of practice) I see social media offering new ways of connecting with others leading to collective learning. However, there are also downsides to an ever increasing level of being in touch through social media..

Many articles on the internet are sharing the successes of social media like how technology helped in times of fuel shortage in Kenya, how volunteer mappers helped Haiti, or the web2.0 revolution, or how crowdsourcing helps holocaust survivors find answers. Or in organisations: how we use social media to spur employee innovations. All success stories of situations where people have used social media constructively to achieve some goal. Sharing success stories is necessary and useful to inspire others (imitation welcome!) Then there are an awful lot of how to's..on the internet like how to network online, or five tips to separate your professional and privat life online, etc. But there is less written about the dark side of social media...

Let me give you three examples people shared with me. I'm going to make them anonymous because I did not ask permission to share them.

"My daughter is constantly in touch with her friend whose parents are going to divorce. I really dislike MSN and social networks because her friend will get in touch with her immediately something happens. At times upsetting. So this divorce issue is entering my house forcefully"

"I discovered that my husband is sending two girl-friends messages on Facebook for Valentine's day. I'm very upset to discover this... Now I don't trust my husband anymore"

"I followed another professional on Twitter doing similar work as I do. Reading that he got more work and more interesting assignments than I do made me feel bad. In the end I decided to unfollow him."

What do these examples tell us? That openly sharing and constantly knowing from a large group of people what's going on also has its downsides. Maybe the wife was happier if she had not known what her husband was doing (and probably the husband didn't know what information is public and private!). The professional may be benchmarking himself unconsciously through Twitter with others and discovering he is not doing as well as other consultants may be discouraging. Is this openness always beneficial I'm wondering?

And you? Are you happily embracing social media or are you at times feeling bad because of all you discover through social media? What do you do to handle this? And do you feel there needs to be more attention for the dark side of social media? (and I'm not yet talking about political manipulation of social media like in this case)


Allison said...

Wow. I have to disagree, as a wife - I would be pissed regardless of the way I found out if my husband was cheating on me. And I would be thankful for Social Media for shedding the light (maybe sooner than later).

Had a similar situation in the office where the person went out on disability - someone looked him up on facabook and he was partying away at the casino. Thank god for facebook or the company would STILL BE PAYING the idiot to lie to them.

Joitske said...

Hi Allison, I agree with you, better to know, hence I enjoy social media and the opportunity to know more about what's going on between people. However, there might also be instances where we don't want to know and social media makes it harder to avoid knowing? Like when you break up and want to forget the person? I'm sure there are lots of people uncomfortable with the openess..