Web 2.0 has significantly changed human social behavior. We’re evolving as a species or devolving depending on who you ask – in a way that twenty years ago would have seemed ridiculous – or based more on a sci-fi screenwriters imagination than practical reality. Web 2.0 applications facilitate interactive information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design, and collaboration on the internet.
These applications have enabled the development of unique web-based communities, like second-life; hosted services-like Google-mail/sites etc; interactive web applications (aps); social-networking sites like facebook, twitter and linkedin; video-sharing sites, like you-tube; wikis; and blogs-like this one. The success of Web 2.0 lies in the fact that users are able to interact with other users or to modify website content. This is in deep contrast to the passive viewing experience of the early years of the internet.
So now with Web 2.0 you can tell the whole world what you’ve eaten for dinner; post the photos of your trip to India; and share your innermost feelings on a blog. Web 2.0 has also revolutionized business; facebook pages; linkedin profiles; twitter updates, for example, are now used as effective marketing tools to target a large potential clientele that you otherwise would never have had access to. Social networking is now the way to promote yourself to raise your profile. In fact, its well-known that prospective employers will check out your web-presence before even considering offering you a position with their organization.
So how naked do you want to get on the web? How much information do you want to share? How honest do you REALLY want to be? How much of yourself do you offer up? In business – like politics – there seems to be a fine line between spinning the truth and being dishonest – or consciously omitting details for the sake of building the trust and confidence of your clients. It’s all about image-branding. You actually could be the most pathetically insecure mouse of a person – but online – you can be superman – wonder-woman – whatever you want. Web 2.0 is perfect for the narcissist – in fact its breeding a whole new generation of them: you can talk about yourself ALL the time to thousands of people!
A couple of weeks ago Mel and I had a really interesting conversation. She had just read one of my blog entries about how I’ve been struggling trying to drum up business as a consultant.
“Are you sure you want to include some of that stuff on your blog? What if a potential client reads that you’re having such a hard time – it makes you sound kind of desperate.”
My internal reaction to her comment was automatically defensive – I’ll write whatever the f**k I want to – it’s the internet!
“That’s the whole idea of my blog,” I tried to be objectively calm. “To reflect on the trials and tribulations of being a young entrepreneur. And right now it sucks. Do I just pretend it’s all f**king sunshine and roses? Where’s the depth, the integrity, the suffering that really reflects the process of forging your path in a world gone mad.”
“Maybe that’s the stuff you just keep to yourself – or share with the ones you love and care about. That’s what we’re here for after all. I just hate to see you lose business because of your brutal honesty.”
I grumbled a lot that night – cursing the shallowness of humanity, the fickleness of clients, the lack of integrity in the world of business, the suffering of compassion. The next day I had a nice pity-party for myself – and invited all my friends from the night before to co-miserate with me. It sucked – just like it was intended to. But Mel was right – God bless her wonderful heart.
I’m now editing my Web 2.0 interface. Keeping it clean – building a brand – keeping my metaphorical clothes on. If you want to know what I ate for diner – call me. If you want to know why I haven’t called you in 4 months – email me. Make an effort to connect – to trust – to be vulnerable – to share – to really share.
I think its time to remember, in between facebook status updates and twitter reminders, to nurture those heart-centered relations that feed us in so many tangible and non-tangible ways. Without them we’d be socially emaciated and dull. Virtual communities are cool but so are real communities. There’s an art to real-life social networking that is sorely missing from the online variety today. There’s so much you can tell about a person by looking them in the eyes.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy connecting with friends on facebook – and I see the inherent business value of sites like Linkedin and twitter. The real art to Web 2.o is integrating the technology into our lives to enhance our lived-experience – not to create simulacra of love-communities-and personal identities. What are we all hiding from anyways? What fear/anxiety is driving us to become so reliant on technology as a social-aid?
If we can’t get a hold of Web 2.0 – we’re doomed when Web 3.0 finally emerges out of the military-industrial complex. Studies in the Anthropology of Consciousness suggest its only a matter of time before human-technology interfaces, like in the blockbuster movie Surrogates, become the norm. So how naked do you really want to get?