I admit, like a number of my friends, I first opened a Facebook account in order to have a window on my children’s world. Some of my friends have told me that their children would be embarrassed to have them as friends — and so they are locked out. Others tell me that one reason they have avoided Facebook is because of its reputation as a site for high schoolers and those in or just out of college — not for serious people.
In some ways this also reflects the attitude in general towards managing and interacting in a transparent and collaborative environment. In having access to my college age children’s world, and frankly insisting on being able to see all the content there, I also have to know when to become engaged and when to just observe. Too many questions (e.g. why did you dress like that at that party?, why did you put that silly comment on your wall? etc.) is akin to micro-management and could lead to information being withheld or misrepresented. Not stepping in when necessary (e.g. let’s talk about the drug paraphernalia in that picture, you may not realize the significance of that wall post and how it could be interpreted, etc.) could indicate that you don’t care. It’s a family forum where I can draw on lessons from workplace management, while at the same time I can draw on the behavior I see within the family environment and apply it to a workplace where similar tools promoting transparency and collaboration are being used.
Which then raises the aspect of Social Networking sites like Facebook not being for serious people. To some extent, that’s the point. There may not be a lot of serious discussions taking place within Facebook, but it does present an environment for casual social interaction in which a different set of social skills can be developed, and in which generations can have windows on each others worlds.
I noted that at the outset I opened a Facebook account to have a window on my children’s world. What it has also done, however, is provide them (if they’re interested) with a window to mine. As the number of my friends on Facebook as increased, my children are able to see how I interact with friends from different arenas (from people I’ve known since I was seven years old to those I’ve worked with in the academic sphere to those I hardly really know at all). Going beyond a “Take Your Children to Work Day” experience, it really is an “expose your children, and your friends and colleagues, and online acquaintances to your world”. In that vein, it has also helped me perceive the world in which I interact as one which is transparent, and where I can expect comments from a range of perspectives.
Knowing that there are children and others watching, who will interpret what they see in a way that is different, and knowing that I have to be able to understand their perspective when I look at their pages, has helped me understand the dynamics of these Web 2.0 tools in the new professional environment of Gov 2.0