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Social media ends all privacy
October 2010

In former articles I have spoken about the negative results social network accounts can have on your job and personal life, something that is common knowledge by now. The big question is though: Is the end of privacy as a result of social media really negative?

Personal privacy no longer exists
Enough people have discovered the hard way that using a Facebook or Twitter account can get you fired, sued, divorced or into prison. This negative impact social network accounts can have, does stop a lot of people from getting involved into social media at all, as they do not want everybody in the world to see their pictures and read their comments. However, they do not understand, as do a lot of companies, that not participating in social media does not mean that you will not appear in it. If you are afraid to open your own Facebook account to avoid anybody seeing the wrong picture of yourself, then you do not realize that your "friends" and other people will place your picture online anyway. This will happen deliberately, because you look so funny or stupid in that one image, by accident, because you appear in a picture with them, or just because you happened to be in front of someone's camera at the wrong moment. The end result is the same: you are more likely to appear in Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, or any other social media site than not.

The difference with social media is that almost from one day to another we received this wonderful new communication tool, which most of us embraced and enjoyed with our friends, but we have never been trained to use it. From when we were small kids we have been trained how to behave in public; have learned what is acceptable and what not; which behavior is likely to get you into trouble or not, but nobody has ever taught us how to use social media in a way that is socially accepted, that does not harm us and avoids public shame. There are still large groups of people who leave their personal Facebook account open to the whole world and have no idea what is happening to their private data and pictures. In social media we only learn from our mistakes or those made by others, but those mistakes can cost us dearly, like our job or worse.

And although we can say in 5 or 10 years from now that we did not know how to behave in social media and that we did not realize our privacy no longer really existed, which will be accepted by the majority of people we will deal with, but all the mistakes we made and showed us from our worst side will still be there and cannot be reasoned away. For example, if photos of yourself lying drunk and naked in the gutter in your early twenties get into the public domain because of errors you made in Facebook, then you will be able to justify that those photos got out because of your inaptitude with Facebook. However, 10 years later when you might be applying for a great job, they might resurface and the fact that you are lying there completely drunk and naked has nothing to do with your Facebook abilities, but all with your personality. You might have changed completely since those photos were taken, but will your potential boss dare believe you and take the risk of hiring you?

Is the end of privacy really such a bad thing?
In early societies like nomadic tribes, privacy hardly existed, because everybody new everything about everybody else in the tribe. Over the centuries people created more and more their own (private) space to protect their personal properties against theft. This private space also allowed for behavior that was not acceptable in public or would make us feel ashamed if it became public knowledge. Slowly this private behavior grew into a right we have; our privacy, which has gained a high value in our society and is being protected by national laws. However, in the case that privacy is used to masquerade socially unaccepted or even criminal behavior we can ask ourselves if we have not taken privacy too far.

Nowadays, in the age of social media, people are becoming more and more aware of the dangers of their online behavior. Actions which were more acceptable before, because they took place in an isolated population like a sports club, or would only be circulated among a small population because they were unacceptable but were not criminal, will no longer be so. From now on any negative behavior might become visible to the whole world through social media: our privacy has been seriously diminished.

Thus we will think twice before engaging in unacceptable behavior or we will avoid appearing in unacceptable pictures. We might learn from our mistakes and adapt our behavior next time we get in the same situation, like avoid getting so extremely drunk that we end up naked in the gutter. This would mean that social media would improve society, by improving people's behavior in general.
Tell me, is it really necessary to have a private space to "hide" things from the people around us?

What is your opinion? Is it ok to loose our privacy altogether, or do you foresee another future where privacy still exists?

Social media





Some of my personal remarks and opinion on books related to social media marketing:

"Socialnomics" How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business, by Erik Qualman


"New rules of PR & Marketing" How to Use Social Media, Blogs, News Releases, Online Video, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly,
by David Meerman Scott

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