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The playground of social technology

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Posted: Friday, August 27, 2010 4:22 pm

Someone asked me this week, "How are you?".  Um...Let me check Facebook.

Every time there is a new form of technology businesses and parents have to figure out how to manage it.  Forget understanding how it works and don't even waste precious brain cells on why we might need it.  As parents Jim and I missed much of the new technology of cell phones and all the must-haves of teenagers.  Our boys didn't have phones and we didn't have the bills (that was the real crux of the matter).  Now that they are on their own, they have all the trappings of young men their age and the associative bills.

As a manager I need to accomplish 3 things as it relates to social and online technology:  How to make money from it.  How to keep it from robbing us of precious time and how to make sure we are not harmed from it.

Making money is the easy part.  For each new technological trend that comes down the pipe, there is someone who wants to use it for business.  Email newsletters, video promo ads and mobile applications are all a part of my daily work life now.  Price it right and you will have a market.  This is fertile ground here and pretty good stuff.  You might not make a million but if you have enough of these little ideas and enough people who want to plunk down money for're golden.

Technology can help us be better managers and employees.  For the working mom who gets a text from Junior, "I'm home, safe and sound making a snack", it saves work and worry time.  Its easy and it doesn't tie up a receptionist fielding calls for the 46 mothers in the building.  If you're gonna be late, a quick text to the boss does the trick.  Its hard to find fault with the Internet in general.  Its a fantastic business tool and all the associative technology, like email and online functions, make our lives easier, faster and in some instances, significantly healthier.  But if your staff is cruising the web instead of doing their have a huge problem. 

Parents have a more difficult job.  Discern which technology helps and which has the potential to harm.  This is especially challenging when every other TV commercial makes you feel like Methusilah (a really old guy-look it up) if you don't own the latest and greatest (fill in the new technological wonder here).  Bullying on email and sexting are becoming stuff you hear about on the news and I don't know a parent of a youngster who doesn't have a right to be concerned.  Social websites like Four-Square, YouTube and Facebook have taken on a high school like quality of who's on top and who is not.  Kids and adults alike have a whole new way of picking on others.

So let's talk about Facebook as an example.  When you realize what exactly Facebook is, you will recongize it by its old school name: GOSSIP.  Yes, it is an excellent way to keep in touch and have some discussion about every little thing in your head.  But see, that's the problem.  Some people feel they are free to discuss every little thing in their head even if it is vicious gossip, snarky remarks or cruel inuendo.  They forget that this is a digital web of who knows who knows who and it doesn't stop at the people you have "friended".  This is not a private forum.  This is a very public display of conversation.  It would be the same as if you and a friend wanted to have a private conversation while shouting across Union Station.  A few (hundred) people are bound to hear what you have to say.  And if they don't, there are those who did hear who will be more than happy to pass the message on.

So how do we keep things like Facebook from hurting lives, businesses and careers?  I don't know.  But I do know there are far too many bullies who have taken over this particular playground.