My desktop computer caved under the pressure of intense web use last week. I came home from a full and long day in New York City to have a blue screen appear in the middle of a blog post. It looks like a trip to the Apple store is happening sooner rather than later. Goodbye PC, hello Mac.
I met Trisha Miller after my post titled Mac or Windows? She is passionate about the Mac and blogs about tech with a dash of humor at Tech Kitten. Trisha also writes about what makes people talk at Topical Juice. Right now, people are talking about social networking and user reputation and Trisha and I exchanged views in this conversation we hope you will join.
Valeria Maltoni: We're all becoming public figures, whether we have a blog or not. Our information is stored somewhere online in places where we have a presence -- it could be a comment on the Facebook wall, or a blog post somewhere, it could even be an open review on a consumer site. Do we think about that as we go around leaving our digital imprint? How do we manage our image online? Do we?
The second question related to that is what role does social networking have now and how do you see that evolved in the future in defining the user in terms of others' perception of them? Does the user truly have control over that perception?
Trisha Miller: Many of the major advances in community-based technologies –- blogging, social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, participation in consumer review sites typified by Amazon and BizRate, shared bookmarking sites such as Del.icio.us, content rating sites like Digg and Slashdot -- all of these allow each of us to achieve some level of our “15 minutes of fame” although perhaps not exactly in the manner Andy Warhol predicted.
But I believe that the immediacy of the conversation and feedback offered by this same technology, along with email, IM, and VOIP, has somehow trained many of us to be overly focused on the here and now, with little thought to the future impact of this digital imprint we are leaving behind. The wisest among us understand that we must manage our image, give consideration to the reputation we are building and structure our cyber-pathways with this in mind.
It’s naive to think that we can drop small tidbits of ourselves all over the internet with no ability to connect the dots, unless it’s done anonymously, which, for most of us, defies the very reason we are participating –- to have our voices heard and, hopefully, respected on some level. We manage our image through consistency of what we say -- our message should always reflect our core beliefs, principles, and ideals. If we stay true to our message wherever we choose to participate, then we build credibility.
Social Networking has given us, amongst its many benefits, two great gifts. The more obvious of the two is that it has expanded the ability of many to communicate -– family and friends to keep in touch
or to make new friends, colleagues to contribute to collaborative efforts, businesses to inform and solicit feedback from customers.
Thousands (maybe millions?) of online conversations are taking place every moment of every day via social networks. A more subtle but equally important benefit is that it has also expanded our perception
of “friendship” and encourages us to learn about the beliefs, lifestyles, religions, and cultures of others. The primary role of social networking -- keeping people connected -- will only continue to grow and evolve as it becomes more inclusive.
We are defined by what of ourselves we choose to put out there, which is why our message is so important, but we also have to take into account cultural differences in interpretation. A college student who posts a picture of him/herself drinking alcohol at a party with friends may be seen by many as a fun person, but to someone who is from a culture where alcohol is banned as immoral, they may be seen very differently.
To some degree, we truly have no control over others’ perceptions of us, but we should still consider what message we are sending with every post, every picture, every blog post or comment. We do have control over how we choose to define ourselves, and what we want others to know about us. Some are much more "open" with their thoughts and feelings than others, but how open should we be? Isn't there a point at which we lose control by being "too open"?