A few months ago I finally joined Facebook. Seeing as how I am twenty-two years old and only recently graduated from college, there had been plenty of opportunities and encouragement from friends to do this much sooner. However, I simply did not have any desire to display personal information, pictures and discussion to the world. Call me crazy for not fully endorsing the product, but I remain skeptical of the applications use. However, somewhat contradicting what I just said (albeit anonymously), I sit here beginning to document issues in my life in an open forum. With so many new outlets for the exchange of information becoming available, I have been considering the usefulness and value of those resources. Therein lies the topic of this post.
I was prompted to this subject by a recent essay in Foreign Affairs by Mike McConnell. McConnell is the current Director of National Intelligence. His position was “created in 2005 to transform and modernize intelligence institutions, rules, and relationships to meet today’s intelligence needs.” Considering my dismay with U.S. intelligence capabilities surrounding the war in Iraq, I was obviously curious as to his methods. Among those mentioned in the article, albeit not the focus in any respect, is to develop virtual communities for his analysts to exchange ideas and information. I’m not certain where, but I have heard knowledge sharing ideas like this from business leaders as well. The hope is that, by allowing your employees/analysts/etc to write freely about their area of “expertise”, others will be enlightened to the point of doing their job better. If only it were that easy…
The most inherent problem I see with this is the contributors themselves. In all likelihood, some of the brightest minds within an organization will share something. However, so will some of the most ill-informed and confused. For the most part, this is not entirely important in the blogosphere. Individuals are free to pick and choose what they read and determine if the source is reliable. Traditional, unedited blogs do not carry a presumption of accuracy and journalistic integrity. We have newspapers, journals, magazines, etc for that. However, within a company or more seriously, the CIA, a blog authored by professionals could be perceived as trustworthy and wholly accurate. Unedited content and a lack of skepticism from the reader could be a dangerous combination. The possible outcomes as a result of sabotage, misinformation or sheer ignorance are endless and I will leave you to consider the consequences. I feel confident with my concerns, as I have read some of the most enlightening and worthless writings on blogs.
Returning to where I began, over the past few months I have become familiar with Facebook. (For purposes of full disclosure, this is the only social networking site I have used and I know nothing about Myspace or the others.) The site has become, I believe, an integral part of some people’s lives and a necessity for communicating with friends. My excuse for not joining earlier was: if I want to talk to a friend, I’ll call them. Not complex reasoning, but possibly an unreasonable expectation that I would actually some of the people I would like to stay in contact with. The tipping point was graduating from college. I realized, if I did not sign up and left school, there was a real possibility of losing touch with some interesting people. This chain of events led me into the abyss that is social networking.
While at first fairly overwhelming, the experience has faded. Pictures and a changing relationship status elicit the most interest, while the surrounding data is relatively shallow and uninteresting. The information typically reveals very little about an individual, unless you measure a person by their favorite movie or quote. My real question is what leads millions of people to join a site like Facebook and Myspace? Can we no longer garner other people’s interest by interacting with them on a personal level? Are we so hungry for attention that we resort to putting “interesting” facts about ourselves online, comforting ourselves with the hope that someone will see them and be intrigued or amused? Do we not have enough time to manage new and old relationships by actually being someone’s friend (in reality, not a “Facebook friend”)? Whatever the situation may be, the methods through which we communicate are changing drastically, for better or worse.
Despite being initially unimpressed with what these sites have to offer, I am convinced the concept could be used to promote a more cultured, informed and connected global society. More emphasis on creating an outlet for the exchange of ideas, art, knowledge, etc. is needed. The internet generally fulfills this definition. However, it will take a new platform to facilitate and hasten this process.
That’s all for now. More later….