Every now and then, someone sidles up to me in the pub or at some networking event and says something like, “I see you’re doing something new,” and I look blankly at them, and they then trot out a message they’ve received from some social media site – often, it has to be said, LinkedIn.
I’ve had another example just recently. Two messages from people I’m connected with “liking” my anniversary. A little research reveals that LinkedIn has sent (to presumably all my contacts) a message bragging about how my business (Hilltop Consultancy – among the many failures and also-rans) has now been in business for 12 years. Well, woo-hoo.
I didn’t ask them to. I didn’t know they had. They just did.
I’d love to know what informs this behaviour – though I can guess. And it’s got little or nothing to do with whether I want to make a big (or indeed any size of) deal of it, as part of my self-promotion.
Now I know I don’t come across as the shy retiring type. Fair enough. But the the obverse of that is that I’ll decide what messages I’ll put out about myself, thank you very much. I am, to put it mildly, sick and tired of sites like this acting autarchically (there’s a good word I’ve just discovered) on my behalf.
But how to rein them in?
Is it indeed even possible? No doubt the terms and conditions which everyone signs but no one ever reads will have, somewhere on page 45 in 6-point type, a clause which allows them to do whatever they like.
OK, this is a pretty trivial example. Sending messages about some spurious anniversary is unlikely to damage my civil liberties to any great degree.
The underlying principles might though: the insidious drip drip drip of this sort of thing as a daily, institutionalised form of behaviour.
With the Edward Snowden case, it is just beginning to dawn on us the extent to which information about us – which, for obvious reasons would have previously been shared with only a very limited and trusted circle of friends and relatives – is now available to virtually any authoritarian regime that shows an interest.
A younger generation is discovering, often to its consternation and considerable cost, the permanent damage to a career or reputation that can be wrought, as a result of the thoughtless posting of social exploits that previous generations would have had limited to a bit of sniggering around the bar at the local.
And as anyone will tell you who has tried, taking down information, once posted, is a long drawn-out struggle – and even if successful, the source material stays on the servers in perpetuity, as far as anyone can tell. There is a degree of secrecy here that the spooks must just love.
Do I have a solution? I do not, other than to offer this simple advice: whatever social media you use, for personal or business purposes, do not post anything that you would not want the entire world to have access to for the rest of your lifetime (and beyond).
So it’s one way of leaving a legacy. It just might not be the one would wish for or be proud of.
To all those of you who do actually read these ramblings to the end – and I know from the comments I receive in person and e-mail that there are more than I ever expected when I started out – I’d like to say thank you, and wish you a successful and prosperous 2014.
With the economy and business confidence starting to pick up, hopefully we’ll all have a great year.
David Croydon: 01844 238692 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org