Are We Too Invested in Social Media?

Flipping through the usual bookmarks I found a video (ok it wasn’t hard to find it was on the govfresh homepage) that raised a question that I’ve definitely thrown around in my head a few times before in different ways. What happens when one of the massive social media outlets turns into something we don’t want it to be.

I mean it has happened before and it will continue to happen. For instance ChatRoulette was supposed to be a site where you could video chat with random people across the world. But as you can guess in a matter of weeks turned into an online orgy.

All I’m saying is what happens when facebook or twitter ceases to be what we have come accustom to it being. Almost every website has social media connects and plug-ins all over their site. What will be the fall out (for your site which I know probably has social media all over it) if those social media tools all the sudden have a fall out with the masses.

I know that the major tools used have it in their best interest to keep going down the path that they are currently but it’s not too far fetched to think that facebook could have a sudden change, they always are tweaking things on a week to week basis.

Anyways back to the question by the guy who looks suspiciously like Johnny Depp. Why are governments and I think even more specifically politicians tying themselves so closely with social media and giving a stamp of approval on things that could at any second turn on them without any prior notice.

For example if facebook really wanted to screw a specific candidate they totally could. I’m not sure as a private company and as a nontraditional media facebook would be held to journalistic standards (like those exist anymore anyways).

It’s a big what if senario but still it’s a little scary how powerful social networks have become.

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Stephen Peteritas

Mark, I did enjoy the video and you said it a lot more eloquently than me. Honestly I’m new to the GovLoop and Gov scene period so didn’t know you were a “baller” (Andy might have dropped a hint at me after the blog post). But anyways I enjoyed your thoughts and look forward to hearing more of them.

PS. It is no sin to look like Johnny Depp, definitely meant to be a compliment.

Frederick P. Wellman

I’m not sure if using the logos or placing our information is an endorsement of these sites as much as a use of them to reach a large segment of the public. I am a big believer that you should fish where the fish are. With 400 million+ members on Facebook and 105 million+ members on Twitter that is a lot of people to inform of your government agencies activities using those channels. Most major organizations like the Army are spreading their efforts across all of the major social networks along with their traditional outreach efforts in media and community relations. There is no question that social nets will come and go and government organizations need to constantly be vigilant in their use of these channels to ensure its in their best interest to use them but I don’t think using them is any more of an endorsement per se of those entities than using Verizon for our phones, Blackberries for mobile or MS Outlook as the official email program is an endoresement of those companies. They offer products that are useful to accomplish our mission. Next year it might be AT&T, Apple and Gmail if their products accomplish what we need to do better.

Frederick P. Wellman

…and Mark you do look oddly Depp-ian in that video brother. Throw in some bad pirate accident and you are there.

Andrew Krzmarzick

@Frederick – I think the technical term is “Depp-er” 🙂

Some of the other questions raised here: if the logos of these companies are allowed to be present on government web pages, what if companies with legitimate contracts starting asking for similar real estate? Would government web pages become littered with logos? Or should they have a page dedicated to their private partners? Would this be a good thing as it makes their business transactions even more transparent? I don’t have good answers…

Stephen Peteritas

Not good enough in photoshop but just trying to picture Andy’s thoughts of a NASCAR car wrap on some government building.

Gary Berg-Cross

I can imagine that public government officials will be more responsive that private Facebook business owners. A question might be whether enough of the public sees value in having functionality in its Gov 2.0 efforts to pay for them.

James Purser

Are we worried about social media or specific tools?

If Facebook/Twitter – whichever tool floats the collective boat – takes a dive another will rise to take its place, it’s the nature of the beast. We just have to be flexible enough to ride the wave.

Arvind Nigam

The private or public company paradigm itself is questionable coz a public servant would say, Government “done it for fairness” without monetary interest while a private co. would say its only for self-interest i.e protection of power game of Government that you did it. So one can brainstorm on this model too, if we are looking at Government 2.0 today!

For the core question of the article, in my opinion Facebook or any social media can turn against a politician if the politician is not upright and is hand-in-glove with undesirable activities. If the leader is genuine, and manages social media directly without any traditional media in between, the situation would always remain positive for the politician.

An excellent example recently is that of Shashi Tharoor, Ex-Under Secretary to the United Nations who suffered a lot against lies of traditional media (is still undergoing crap) in India. But since he has direct contact with citizens of India using twitter account, there is a lot of trust that the youth of India vests on him. People keep talking to him often about everything he does or thinks about on a daily basis. Nobody cares what print media lately published about his integrity per se.

His integrity which already has been well grounded since opening of his career has much against the wishes of traditional biased media, has been supported by social media a lot.

Does this burning example off-date, answer your question?

Have a look 🙂


Gary Berg-Cross

One additional thing that I took from Mark’s comments was the sheer energy of keeping the social connections he really wanted and the how things like Facebook doesn’t make this simple for the user. Given this, it isn’t just a question of a Private company like Facebook trying to screw a particular candidate, it may be that influential groups may try to subtly manipulate opinion. Indeed there was an article in the Washington Post recently on people who are in effect lobbyists who blog and tweet on topics without making their connections clear. So one of the issues might be how to manage such meme savvy groups.