When everyone has a blog, a MySpace page or Facebook entry, everyone is a publisher. When everyone has a cellphone with a camera in it, everyone is a paparazzo. When everyone can upload video on YouTube, everyone is filmmaker. When everyone is a publisher, paparazzo or filmmaker, everyone else is a public figure. We’re all public figures now. The blogosphere has made the global discussion so much richer — and each of us so much more transparent.
The implications of all this are the subject of a new book by Dov Seidman, founder and C.E.O. of LRN, a business ethics company. His book is simply called “How.” Because Seidman’s simple thesis is that in this transparent world “how” you live your life and “how” you conduct your business matters more than ever, because so many people can now see into what you do and tell so many other people about it on their own without any editor. To win now, he argues, you have to turn these new conditions to your advantage.
For young people, writes Seidman, this means understanding that your reputation in life is going to get set in stone so much earlier. More and more of what you say or do or write will end up as a digital fingerprint that never gets erased. Our generation got to screw up and none of those screw-ups appeared on our first job résumés, which we got to write. For this generation, much of what they say, do or write will be preserved online forever. Before employers even read their résumés, they’ll Google them.
“The persistence of memory in electronic form makes second chances harder to come by,” writes Seidman. “In the information age, life has no chapters or closets; you can leave nothing behind, and you have nowhere to hide your skeletons. Your past is your present.” So the only way to get ahead in life will be by getting your “hows” right.
“We do not live in glass houses (houses have walls); we live on glass microscope slides ... visible and exposed to all,” he writes. So whether you’re selling cars or newspapers (or just buying one at the newsstand), get your hows right — how you build trust, how you collaborate, how you lead and how you say you’re sorry. More people than ever will know about it when you do — or don’t.
This is why I like reading Thomas Friedman: he frequently writes very thought-provoking articles. He makes me think. Good writers do that.
I am reminded of the line from the movie Sneakers wherein the character Cosmo (portrayed by Ben Kingsley), tells Martin Bishop (portrayed by Robert Redford): "No more secrets, Marty. No more secrets."
It is been said that it is important to start a blog because you want to define yourself before others do it for you. I am not so sure writing an online diary is such a good idea. Certainly sharing some life experiences are important to fill in the blank spaces -- it is how we build our philosophy of life, after all -- but I don't think that having secrets is such a bad thing.
The openness that the advent of the internet has brought us is both good and bad. We are fragile creatures, you and I. So treat others with kindness. "Respect the dignity of all living things" as it says in the Book of Common Prayer. And to quote a line from Letters from Iwo Jima: "Do what is right because it is right."