After reading other conversations about what Linked In means to classmates, I have another shot to take at the topic: Social media as modern-day secret handshake.
(Apologies for this being the best Simpsons Stonecutters video I can find)
In the classic episode of The Simpsons, Homer is unhappy to learn that he’s apparently the only man in Springfield who isn’t part of the Stonecutters, a secret order that apparently responsible for everything that goes on in the world. Homer, at first on the outside, struggles with getting a local plumber to fix a flooded basement. He is only able to secure timely, competent help from the plumber after revealing he is a newly-minted Stonecutter, thereby entitling him to the benefits usually reserved for the elite. Is this what social media, especially Linked In, will do to the professional landscape of the next few years?
Taking a look at this from two points of view, I’ll start first with the apologist’s, which, in full disclosure, probably most closely resembles my own views. I see these new tools of social media/Web 2.0 as the just that: tools. If you believe that genies do not go back into bottles, what’s done is done and we will do well to go with this flow. I have access to the same technology that anyone else does. As the apologist, I use it without further thought to my colleagues’ compatibilities or any concern for voluntary fair play. I understand that there are those who will shy away from this frontier of professional communication, but that’s not really my problem, is it? Ten years ago, access to computers and the Internet was something of a small club; computers were expensive, their usability factor didn’t encourage adoption, and the reward returned for investment of time honestly didn’t amount to much more than a few computer geek friends talking ad nauseum about last night’s hackfest on Diablo. Today, that’s not the case. A perfectly capable nettop computer can be had for under $400, less than some of the technologically-adverse would drop on a month’s car payment. Operating systems are the most accessible they’ve ever been and the robust offering of simple yet effective applications means no one can reasonably be left out in the cold. So throw off your inhibitions about Twitter, Facebook, or Linked In and join the rest of the online world. The connections you can make and maintain will do more than just kill time; they might help put you on an inside track at work. If you’re willing to put in quality e-suckup time, they why shouldn’t you benefit from your technological aptitude?
On the other side of the coin, we have the inclusionists,: Not everyone is capable of or willing to engage in the same level of immersion, and since it doesn’t really reflect on professional aptitude one way or another, isn’t it just another type of Boy’s Only Club? If I’m a (stereotype alert!) twenty year veteran of my office who just doesn’t give a damn about all that online stuff, isn’t it a type of discrimination to penalize me for not participating? That is what you’re doing, in effect, if I can’t connect on Facebook etc. with the others in the office who care about that kind of thing.
Taking from both sides, I can see validity to both points. As admitted before, my probable allegiance would be to the apologists, judging by how easily I was able to place myself in that position. But it’s always easier for the previously-initiated (Digital Native/Naturalized Citizen?) to call the newcomers out for not being willing to adapt. It’s also reasonable for the newcomers to expect equal reward for equal work. But is it really like that? Has it ever not been this way? Precedent doesn’t equate to acceptability, but it does make change more difficult. What would have to/should have to happen to level this playing field. Or is it a false assumption that leveling is desirable?
Oh, and because a shameless Simpsons quote is applicable here if no other time: Carl: “Oh and don’t bother calling 9-1-1 anymore. Here’s the real number.” (Homer is handed a slip of paper reading ‘9-1-2’)