I have a friend called Jennifer (name and details changed, obviously). At school she was a loner without many friend who, as loners often do, overcome loneliness by bullying smaller kids in the playground. Jennifer managed to gain “friends” by doing this, although they weren’t really friends, rather individuals who were scared that they’d become the target unless they joined in with Jennifer’s shenanigans.
Well, luckily for her schoolmates, Jennifer grew up, studies and entered the workforce where she was forced, at least to a certain extent, to forego her bullying behavior in the interests of fairness, due process and the common good.
Until today that is…
You see the advent of social media in its various guises has given Jennifer the opportunity to once again throw her weight around and make life difficult for others. Involved in a part of an organization that makes extensive use of social media type tools, Jennifer has a wide following in her vocational field and uses this following to bully others the way she used to use her heft to do so all those years ago in the schoolyard.
Now my enterprise friends will tell me bullying in the work place has always existed but social media and enterprise 2.0 tools have extended the reach an individual can communicative with – this is an unquestionably great thing when it comes to collaborating on specific projects, but it’s also a dangerous thing when used inappropriately.
I’ve spent long time talking with Enterprise 2.0 practitioners, attending enterprise 2.0 events and hearing about the barriers to adoption. Generally we’re grasping to find either good case study examples of enterprise 2.0 being put to work or fixes for the oft mentioned barriers to adoption – none of however 9at least in public) are prepared to front up and tell the stories of Enterprise 2.0 gone wrong and used for ugly purposes.
And in this we run a real risk – by burying our heads in the sane and not “outing” the dark side of social media, we play into the hands of those who view the blogosphere, Twitter and social media generally as a complete waste of space. If we don’t tell the stories, and develop ways of avoiding the pitfalls these tools enable, they’ll use the same tales to discount E20 outright.
So here’s a plaintive call to those using social media generally and Enterprise 2.0 tools more specifically: Don’t hide the use-cases that feel uncomfortable, rather use them as case studies, develop solutions and show that like a community of old, so too can a virtual community stand up and police its own.
Everyone would be a little happier if we did that…