What are social networks supposed to add?

When you find yourself busy responding to so many contacts you cannot even cope with on a daily basis, what is your typical reaction?  Why did I log myself onto that other social network?  What am I getting back from the load it has added onto my shoulders?  Hard to decipher… and yet, you continue babbling onto the system, hoping there is an echo from the outside world… Please answer me or else, I may look like a nerd or a geek!  But, what for?

Information overload, that is the name of the current game and guess what?  We gobble anything that comes through as truth; in french, there is an expression « vu à la télé, lu sur le net » which means that anything I saw on TV or read on the web must be true.  The problem comes from the necessary time to understand what you have just seen, integrate what if means, decide whether you agree then make it yours!  But, instantaneity does not allow for that time.

Information overload comes from the media at first but your « friends » as well, you know the 3458 people that « know » you on FaceBook, which means that they have an auto-reminder of your birthdate and a great picture of you, drinking down that bottle of gin at Joe Blow’s party… All these friends, wow!  What about my privacy, what about the time necessary to take a step back, what about the needed reflexion on what I receive through mails and « walls »?

Why do you think companies loathe social networks so far?  We talked earlier about security issues but reality comes from time spent on the web; look at the statistics… even TV time is coming down to the benefit of PC exposure!  But that means companies have not yet understood all the benefit of intra&internet, mostly from mismanagement of the delivery system; give some basic training on how to use your intranet and companies can realize the benefit.

Social networks are a means to facilitate expression; we have all read stories of geeks making friends thanks to the web, whom they even meet in person for a drink or other!  It helps people put down what they think, what they believe in, what they loathe, what they love, with no restraint at first until they start getting feedback and that is where it adds value: one can express and get feedback with no shyness at the outset, no need to appear anything just thoughts.

They therefore help creativity, as you can let your mind wonder around with no restraint, including that stupid idea you had in your bath (remember Archimedes shouting « Eureka », I found it!)  So, one can be hopeful that companies can get benefit from that flow of ideas… The only hint that they have to understand is for productivity’s sake: you need to train the people to use the system in a proper way, which means creating rules and regulations for sharing.

I can see readers saying this contradicts the whole prupose of free expression; in fact, not at all!  It helps employees in giving them some guidelines that shall encourage going onto the intra&internet, whilst providing safekeepers to avoid any waste of time.  It starts with proper technology, organized data centers, proper mapping (exactly like any road infrastructure that gives you freedom to drive but left and right boundaries to avoid getting sidetracked.

This requires companies thinking through the process, having the adequate resources to support the system, spending the time necessary to decipher through the flow of expression and having an incentive program to make sure all participate, raise their critical faculty, judge if necessary and keep their autonomy.  Then companies can be proud of having set productive means of creativity whilst preserving freedom of expression, a must!

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