Photo: limowreck666 on Flickr

The more I use social media tools to communicate with people the more I ponder the long-term rammifications of such systems. I know there was a time when people were a little nervous about using a little newfangled tool called the telephone. Similarly, when email became a viable communication tool in business, the C-suite got their panties in bunches because everything anyone said would become written record. Now, in the days of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr, MySpace, forums and the myriad other social networking sites out there, EVERYTHING is a matter of written record. Personal, professional, not-so-professional… everything.

The one thing I find absolutely fascinating about these sites is that it takes a certain kind of person to start a conversation. There is definitely a sort of narcissistic tendency that drives status updates everywhere. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn all have a status update field, and updating one’s status is like starting a conversation without knowing who you’re talking to… it’s sort of akin to running out into the street and screaming, “I just ate pancakes for breakfast!” to see who might respond. The business equivalent is like standing in the subway yelling, “I improved sales by 23% over last year by implementing a new CRM system!” What kind of person starts a conversation without someone on the receiving end?

Almost everyone.

If that is the case, are we creating a narcissistic society? What does the future of social networking look like?

The simple fact that I have a blog probably makes me a bit of a narcissist if I’m being honest. I’ve never met a blogger who didn’t get a sense of accomplishment from checking their site stats; some even go so far as to set up full Google Analytics and track conversion rates for email and feed signups. It’s not that I think there’s anything wrong with that, but it is just evidence of the ego boost that goes along with knowing people are interested in what you have to say.

I’ve always been a little awkward in new situations or when I’m put on the spot; it’s the reason I’ve become so incredibly truthful in every situation – sometimes to my own detriment. Somehow I find being completely transparent makes life easier… not to mention, I don’t have to try and remember what I said in any given situation. In light of my mildly stunted personal skills, social networking and communicating online gives me the opportunity to think through what I want to say before I blurt out something ridiculous. This is good for me.

I am excited at the prospect of a transparent world.

Ten years from now, everyone will be online sharing status updates and leaving a trail of evidence to their lives behind them. No longer will anyone have a public and a private persona. No longer will people have to worry about not getting a job because they had some college party photos on their Facebook; companies will barely be able to find anyone who hasn’t posted something that shows them enjoying a drink, wearing something too revealing (or nothing at all), or doing something embarassing. What will happen, though, is that we’ll all have to evaluate every relationship by looking at the total person with all their dirty laundry hanging out for the world to see. We will have to consider everyone from a different perspective. I can’t tell you how often it has shocked me to see CEOs use the phrase “WTF” on Twitter. Seriously. It shocks me. But ten years from now it won’t. I will just get to know that those people will likely drop the F-bomb in the office too and decide if that’s okay with me.

I’ve already said more online than many people and maybe that will come back to bite me in the butt one day. But I’m happy knowing I’m true to me and if someone chooses to overlook me for a given opportunity because I’m a born-again Christian or because I’ve had postpartum depression, because I once bashed a reality TV star or because I have written about the joys of colon cleansing so be it. I’m okay with that. The kind of opportunities I’m looking for are those where my skills can make an impact and those that allow me to be as nerdy as I want, let me try out new ideas and allow me to do what it is that I’m passionate about.

I can’t and won’t be someone else just so more people will like me. After all, I think I’m pretty great and that’s all that matters.

I dare you to copy your most recent status update to the comments…