Friday, September 28, 2012

Social Media and the future of a Global Community


I happen to be very excited with the transparency that comes with living an your life online, but I understand that with the good comes the bad. There are several videos (links herein) that highlighted much of what I consider the good that will come with the Global advancement of the social web. Social media is about transitioning community from physical world to virtual world. With this greater sense of community, I believe we'll experience a quest for greater authenticity, greater empathy, greater vulnerability and, as such, greater community that extends way beyond physical boundaries of neighborhoods, towns, counties, cities, etc.

The Heywood video on Patients Like Me (PLM) was a perfect example of the good that can come from extending community online. As someone who has had her share of health issues, I am excited to create my profile and begin connecting with others that have been living with the disease that has caused so much turmoil in my life. Everyone experiences health issues in their life, this social network provides those going through it at the time with information about the experiences, treatments and outcomes of others with similar diagnoses. Now, like any social network, one has to be cautious about their interactions with others, and it is especially true in this case. Call me a skeptic, but I am always somewhat suspect of the intentions of others in a social network and, in the case of health outcomes, it is important to consider the opinions and data provided by others as just another source of reliable information.

These social networks are allowing individuals the opportunity to be themselves, share themselves, in a vulnerable way in these social communities. This sharing leads us all to "get real" about and better appreciate the human experience, from the perspective of those around the globe. The Anderson video highlights this idea of the unique human experience. He talks of radical openness and a propensity toward niche skills and hobbies, as well as the idea of accelerated innovation as a result of crowd-sourcing. There have been many examples of niche skills that, in a physical community, have gone either un- or under-appreciated, but have taken off online. The outlier in the community immediately has a cohort of similar outliers in other geographic communities that have a unique skill or hobby. This new-found appreciation for the unique, odd, different is finally being pulled into the light of day, offering us all a greater appreciation for the unique and varied talents of a diverse world.

I believe we are going through the greatest change I will see in my lifetime as a result of the advancements around the social web. The Anderson video speaks of the use of the pervasive use of video in the next 5 years as a result of increasing Internet bandwidth. With this will come more face-to-face communication, more authenticity, more transparency, greater acceptance of the individual and greater encouragement and participation from the individual's virtual community. These changes will provide us a greatest leveler I believe we've ever experienced in any lifetime. As the RSAnimate video on Empathy introduces, "empathy will allow us to civilize." And the social web will provide the connections, Global connections, to support greater empathy, "expanding it to all of humanity." The problems on the other side of the world are no longer "out of site, out of mind." Every one of us has the opportunity to connect with individuals participating in the human experience on the other side of the world, firsthand. One of my favorite videos is one that speaks to the growing need for vulnerability in a world hopped up on ego and compartmentalization. I believe that this is the direction we are headed, as more and more live a fully transparent, fully authentic life online and find acceptance, this will spill over into the physical world as we'll all be more comfortable with who we are and no longer desirous of fulfilling some image or need to fit in in our physical communities. AMEN!!

So, how does all of this apply to the Public Administration challenge? I believe that the human experience has been hijacked by politics, consumerism and privilege. This increased transparency, individuality, and community will likely lead to greater participation in the citizen experience. Representation, as laid out in our 225 year old Constitution, has been deemed ineffective given the size/ population of representative districts and the challenge of a growing divide between the haves and have nots. This new culture of online community will provide those who don't feel represented due to physical, geographic or economic boundaries to finally feel like they have a say in policy that affects their lives and their communities. Whereas, someone who feels strongly about a policy change or introduction may not know someone in their community to organize and mobilize with, these connections can be made through online communities, pushing the idea of crowdsourcing into the policy space. The minority and disenfranchised have the opportunity to congregate through online communities, lobbying through grass roots, finally standing a chance against the decades-old lobbying with exorbitant amounts of cash. I am very excited to participate in the transition of our Government and take it back for those who haven't had a seat at the table for generations.