Feb 212013
 


The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously. – Hubert H. Humphrey

We worry all the time about identity theft. We are warned to protect ourselves. With the global acceptance of the Internet, protection from identity theft has become a major industry. But what happens when our identity is lost on the Internet?

Last Thursday, about one hour before I reached the top level in Restaurant City, Facebook notified me that my account had been disabled. Earlier that day I shared an article on my blog with four Facebook groups to which I belong. For some reason that tipped a scale somewhere and my account was turned off. But it wasn’t just turned off in order to make sure I wasn’t a spammer. It turns out they lost it. Over the weekend I had to rebuild from scratch, my account, all my connections, all my memberships and my restaurant in Restaurant City. I had to ask my husband to tell everyone on Facebook that he wasn’t married to Mary-Margaret Walker but was instead married to Mary-Margaret Walker, (same name, but to Facebook I was a completely different person). While he was doing this he wavered over the relationship selection “It’s Complicated” just to taunt me.

So what’s at stake here? The trouble of rebuilding an account and rebuilding all your connections is one thing. Even more troublesome is making sure that friends and relatives don’t think that you “un-friended” them on purpose. My life, my vocation, my career, my personal connections are all interwoven. It took some of my friends and family several years to come to terms with that — to understand that I love what I do and I never stop doing it. It’s not because of my profession that I ask someone at a cocktail party if they love their job, but rather I migrated to my profession because I have an insatiable desire to build businesses and careers. The growth of social networks has enabled me to blend work, family and friends into different websites.

I’m connected to members of my family, friends from my early childhood as well as new friends, and colleagues on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Plaxo, etc. Some of us are waiting for a particular website to win out. Others are happy for the competition and the different flavors of networks. Some will leave a network when it starts to charge for access. Others don’t mind as long as there is value for the money paid. Some worry that joining these groups will create more email and possible spam. Others are more certain that the groups will police themselves and will not tolerate communication that is not appropriate for the culture.

Self-expression must pass into communication for its fulfillment. – Pearl Buck

Culture is the key. Learning the culture of any group on the Internet is important to making sure that a group will bring value to you and vice versa. Creating a culture is the dream of every company trying to build a group on the Internet. As we bring more and more technology into our lives we have to remember that it will never replace human contact. I know when an email is from a bot or a person. I know when someone is trying to reach me or merely spread information. And I know that the hundreds of direct emails I receive each day would like a direct response from me. Sometimes reaching out and connecting is like drinking from a fire hose but I always prefer to get soaked.

Communication is not only the essence of being human, but also a vital property of life. – John A. Piece