I’m as big an advocate of social media as you’re likely to meet. Still, I think Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker went a bit overboard in yesterday’s offering, Facebook and social media offer the potential of peace:
Not to be a Pollyanna, but it is striking to realize that peace becomes plausible when barriers to communication are eliminated. More than 500 million people use Facebook alone. Of those, 70 percent are outside the United States. MySpace has 122 million monthly active users, and Twitter reports 145 million registered users.
I actually think Ms. Parker does have a bit of the Pollyanna principle running through her argument. And it’s kind of nice for me to have people like her occupying the “extreme optimism” end of the social media spectrum. It makes me seem more moderate. I agree that building more friendship connections is helpful, but I’m not anticipating a Nobel Peace Prize for Mark Zuckerberg.
While I don’t see social media ending the Middle East conflict, I do see these tools playing a huge role in connecting and strengthening relationships within organizations and among those with common interests.
That leads me to one of Parker’s paragraphs that I thought was particularly illuminating, as it relates to the practice of many companies in blocking access to social media sites from their corporate networks:
Obviously, some countries don’t like these media for the very reasons we do. People talk. Facebook is blocked in Syria and China and until recently was also blocked in Iran, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Where freedom flourishes, so do open channels of communication.
As we celebrate Labor Day in the United States, maybe opening access to social media sites at work wouldn’t rank among the all-time achievements for employee-friendly workplaces. It probably won’t usher in a Millennium of peace, either.
But at least it would make your company more open than China, Syria and Iran.
Does your company block access to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube at work?