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Welcome to the Waaay Too Social

comscore.jpg Recently I had been shopping for a new mobile phone. I wanted something that satisfied my need for kick-ass aesthetics and equally powerful functionality. I finally decided on one a few days ago. No, it’s not the Apple iPhone (I’m just not ready for that level of hipster). I went with the Helio Ocean. As I do with all of my tech purchases, I read reviews, compare specs, etc. I construct a pro and con list for everything (like with women and fantasy football players). As I was reading an article about my new phone, it was referred to as a “social networking device.” I immediately associated that with the “con” column. Why you ask? To answer the question by asking another— is “social networking” becoming something weird and awkward— like that uncle who still likes to wrestle with you well into your thirties? Well, yes and no— the tech innovations connected to social networking are great— my new phone supports all major web mail clients and instant messaging platforms within an aesthetically orgasmic interface. There is the fear, however, that the technology is becoming too powerful for our thresholds of common sense (Sprint, starting today, will allow users and their fellow Sprint buddies to track each other via GPS).
The term “social networking” is taking on more definitions by the day. From my new phone (with its creepy, mobile MySpace client), to the seemingly countless other websites that allow people to talk to and about each other (sometimes in horrible manners), the practice is gaining as much baggage as adoration as it grows. Now it’s starting to seep into the workforce. The results aren’t pretty

In March, a Washington Post article reported the account of a female law student who was summarily turned down by over a dozen firms she interviewed with. Despite having an impressive academic pedigree, she was convinced the reason she was marked damaged goods was because she had been smeared on a message board residing on AutoAdmit, which dubs itself “the most prestigious college discussion board in the world.” That’s a bold statement, especially considering that a message board’s prestige is usually contingent upon its clientele. Regardless, the next question you should be asking yourself is what’s worse— the slanderous statements and accusations (some of which were sexual in nature) directed at the student, or the fact that her prospective employers took the content on this site as truth? Part of the answer lies with Google, which indexes bulletin board threads, and has essentially become a reputation management system for employers. Your resume and references are no longer the only links to your work history. If you were unfortunate enough to piss off a co-worker with a penchant for forum posting, then you may be in trouble.
The ugly reality is that self-awareness is dying more and more with each new tool of social networking. The lack of self-awareness in teens, who consume social networking tools like candy, is predictable. Lost youth is another discussion for another day. We grown-ups however need to get our acts together. As technical innovations expand and we all become more isolated social, accountability will be at the forefront. This goes for anyone who thinks there aren’t any repercussions for what they post online, whatever the arena may be. Same goes for employers who think it’s good practice to replace their hiring practices and common sense with what is essentially an abyss of locker room chat. The line between getting to know your fellow human and destroying lives is disappearing at an alarming rate, and we all need to collectively grow a pair.
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