Has Social Networking (in Government) Gone Too Far?
Note: This was originally posted on my posterous blog on 2/17.
Let me make this clear before I get too far into this, I like social networks and, in particular, I find Twitter an incredibly useful tool to connect and engage with people. I use other social networks to greater or lesser degrees and feel fairly comfortable in the space. I also think that social networks are unparalleled in their ability to bring government and the people they serve closer together. Moreover, I believe there are many valid business cases for using these tools and I do not feel that they will or should go away (though they will certainly evolve).
With that caveat, I often struggle with the proliferation explosion of social media presences across the federal government. Although I was just beginning a four year stint in Peace Corps when the Internet first came to life, my sense is that the government Web space went through an unprecedented, and largely unsupervised, expansion that has a left a legacy that we are still struggling with to this day. My fear is that we are undergoing a similar process now and that a few years hence there will be a digital wasteland of government Twitter accounts and Facebook fan pages with no one paying attention, following or friending. Moreover, will we have lost the public trust and interest because we, even with the best of intentions, have been unable to succesfully and sustainably engage.
I hope that I am dead wrong (and please tell me why I am) and perhaps this fear in unfounded. These could well be growing pains yet to be worked out and the mere fact that we are having these discussions online may prove that the patient is healthy. If not, and we are headed down the wrong path, I would love to hear suggestions about how to stem this tide and turn it into a more productive endeavor that truly brings value to the people we serve.
As always, these are my thoughts, and my thoughts alone.