For some years now I have held the opinion that privacy on the Internet is a joke, but if these last few years have shown me anything it is that most computer users—especially those under 30—really don’t expect their Web activities to be private.
Most social networking users I know will gladly put their private selves out there in return for the thrill of knowing what friends, family and strangers are doing at a particular moment. This situation has gone beyond giving up privacy to the point where privacy has taken its place alongside other quaint notions of a bygone era, like marital fidelity. Not only do some users not bemoan their lack of privacy; they seem to revel in it. Any of you who have Facebook or Twitter accounts (myself included) can probably attest to this reality.
That’s not to say that social networking sites aren’t fun and sometimes useful, but they do tend to blur the lines between private life and public persona. Take Facebook, for example. If I happen to be on my laptop and in the mood to answer the question, “What are you doing right now?” there could be some very interesting, or disturbing responses.
Suppose I decided to take my laptop into the men’s room with me. Do my “friends” really want to know the answer to “what I’m doing at that moment?” Or suppose I’m engaged in some form of yucky personal grooming. Should I share that—complete with images—with all who have access to my posts? Come to think of it, if any of my friends are interested in those details, please shoot me a note so I can unceremoniously “de-friend” you.
This situation, however, begs the question: Where does one draw the line, assuming a line gets drawn at all?
It was against this background that I read a recent Yahoo! Technology posting on a new study that says “top CEOs should do a better job managing their presence online, on social sites like Twitter and Facebook.”
According to Yahoo!, Sharon Barclay, who runs executive PR firm Blue Trumpet Group and the blog UberCEO, took Fortune's 2009 list of the top 100 CEOs and found what she calls a “miserable level of engagement” when it comes to social networks. She only found two CEOs with Twitter accounts, and only 13 had profiles on LinkedIn, the social network for professionals.
Well, so what? Is someone trying to tell me an individual isn’t capable of running a company without displaying verbal diarrhea online? Should CEOs be ashamed of not wasting hours a day spewing a stream of mindless observations? What I would really love is for one of these CEOs to give us an entry like: “putting together the list of all employees we will downsize this month.”
It’s one thing if a CEO wants to highlight some of his company’s activities as an outreach to a broader community. That’s business-related communication, an undeniably constructive effort. It’s quite another thing for someone with that level of responsibility to mindlessly ramble, perhaps reflecting the old saying that, “It is better to keep silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”
CEOs have no particular obligation to put their personal lives and activities on the Web for all to see. In fact, I would argue that their obligations lean in the opposite direction. We’re hearing a lot these days about insurance companies using social networking sites to aid in sales and marketing efforts, and that may not be a bad idea. Let’s just make sure we do draw a line somewhere when personal and public lives begin to overlap.
Ara C. Trembly (www.aratremblytechnology.com) is the founder of Ara Trembly, The Tech Consultant and a longtime observer of technology in insurance and financial services. He can be reached at email@example.com.
The opinions posted in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News or SourceMedia.
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