Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Water Cooler now has a plug.

There once was a time, especially in the workplace, where the water cooler or coffee pot (depending on one’s needs) was the center of conversation, usually Monday mornings.

It was a place to share news and gossip as we “gathered around the water cooler.” The water coolers and coffee pots still exist, but just to serve beverages. Talk and gossip have moved online to web sites like Facebook® and Twitter®. Business-style discussions and exchanges of opinion can be found on sites like LinkedIn®.

It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t use these sites. We all create our own circle of friends, peak in at others, find old friends and make new ones.

Instead of pulling pictures from our wallets, we post them online. We don’t have to tune in to blooper shows anymore on television because we can post them online instead.

When it comes to sports trash-talking, there’s nothing like Web 2.0!

One colleague here keeps her Facebook circle of friends pretty much limited to friends from her school days. “It’s like having a class reunion every day” she said. It’s the best description I’ve heard about social media.

There is a dark side to all this, however. People have a tendency to say things online, especially anonymously or using a pretend identity, that they wouldn’t say to your face. Others will try and exploit their “friendship” with you for personal gain, or even more nefarious activities.

Generally, it’s all pretty terrific but, like anything else, look both ways before you cross any digital road. Pick and choose your friends wisely. Always remember that once you post something online, it’s out there pretty much forever.

Part of the HR process these days when evaluating potential hires is searching these sites to get a sense of who you are. Keep that in mind before hitting the Submit button.

Like anything else, when used properly and responsibly, these electronic versions of water coolers are great fun.

Let’s hope it stays that way.

John W. Scherer
John is CEO & Founder of Video Professor, Inc.
You can reach him at ceo@videoprofessor.com.