Because of the pace of global culture in the 21st century, it kind of seems like social media just snuck up on us. But, its roots are deep – reaching back to the late-modernist shift towards individualism.
In the face of insurmountable global conflict, individuals shifted their focus to a more digestible problem: “How can I fix myself? How can I become ideal?” And through limited media channels, that question was answered by Betty Crocker, Proctor, Gamble, and Chiquita Banana. Products will fix you.
Products like those used by celebrities – by it-girls – approximations of the ideal that are elevated by limited exposure and by the combined abilities of many behind the mask of an effortless face.
Production, then, was always done by the “other.” And the self was less – a receiver of awe.
As technology advanced, production became possible for a wider (and now, almost universal) set of people. It became easier to see that behind the mask was a collection, not one complete form. So in order to become ideal, we’d each need to become collectors. Not just of products, but ideas and symbols as well. It seems so accessible – we just need to go shopping! And then, working as independent (well, individual) producers, we get as close to that shock and awe as we can – we all become gladiators and let the crowd pick the losers.
We learn to make public versions of ourselves that are over-the-top and demanding of that kind of attention. Through outlets like social, crowd-sourced, and DIY media, we all publish like it’s going out of style.
But, when everyone is a celebrity, everyone needs a handler (not all press is good press). When a person agrees to become an employee of an organization, they become part of that organization’s brand. And in the public channels used by the organization, the employee needs to maintain that brand standard – in all contexts that both organization and employee are represented, they should appear aligned.
But, it is the place of the organization to create a plan – and a set of expectations and boundaries – in order to maintain this alignment.
Social Media at Work is a new title from HRDQ’s Reproducible Training Library. It’s designed to guide employees at every level of an organization through appropriate and productive ways to benefit personally and a team from the opportunities presented by new media. Don’t let your employees get eaten by a lion – train them!