Two girls were arrested for engaging in a pedestrian activity on the death of a local leader in India in November 2012. Little did the freedom of speech and thought allow the accused to think about the resulting consequences from their actions on a social media platform. This is one out of the many cases that often compels the users of social media to ponder over the safety and privacy of this technological advancement. On the one hand, where it has made life more colorful and easy-going in a virtual space, social media have also assumed their own identities as they can master the humans and shape personalities of those who are not meticulous in their ways.
While the traditional ways of communication involve conversations over the phone or texts, they also come with a certain level of privacy which is difficult to expect from the new trending interactive media. Many people find it easy to maintain a separate professional self from the personal (perhaps due to the different environments), and hence conduct themselves accordingly on different fronts. Fair enough! But what happens when one has common acquaintances between these two profiles?
Many companies take the liberty to go through a potential candidate’s personal information on Facebook, Twitter and the like to assess how suited the latter might be for the job at hand. Where is the privacy here if one’s professional life depends on his/her personal life? One might think that the information, opinions, ideas, photos, videos and thoughts shared on one’s personal profile stay within the limits of the friend circle that is given access to them, only to discover that these permissions are to console the human mind of virtual impenetrable boundaries. Facebook, having learnt the lesson from many personal profiles going public, urges each user to check the “security” of each alphabet typed from one’s account…good and thoughtful precautionary measure, I believe, but its effectiveness is still to be proved in the coming years.
While social media can be a bane to one’s existence, it can also be a blessing in disguise for the corporate sector to educate the public and share didactic information. It is almost difficult, if I can take the liberty to create that phrase, to think of the times when the stores still relied on their phones as the key instrument to pass on information to their potential customers. The menus of restaurants, products of a company, stores carrying particular products, stores in a mall and the like…are all on the internet with live assistance! Every member of the corporate sector has a social media presence to cater to the growing trends of its target audience. With a sensible and fastidious approach to communication, adherence to the dos and don’ts of the company, complete knowledge and social media etiquettes, any company/ organization can win the trust of its public. In the past, Toyota, Dominos, Johnson & Johnson and many such big MNCs have showcased their expertise in social media during the time of exacerbating crises. Timely responses to their customers’ questions, queries and doubts, acceptance of a shortcoming in their respective companies, public apologies via Youtube, written apologies through Facebook and Twitter, helped these companies to rebuild the trust in their products. It is thus not wrong to say that social media are significant elements of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
All in all, it is important to remember that once personal information is shared electronically, it is accessible to more than just those whom you would like to share it with as social networking sites have many more tools at their disposal to track each user’s activity and observe trends. Not only can they get one hired or fired; they can also make or break a company. Social media must therefore be treated as a good servant before it becomes a bad master!