There is no denying that our society is much more transparent than that of previous generations. Those of us that grew up in the MTV era watched season after season of the Real World and saw the shows’ “stars” become famous simply by revealing their innermost thoughts to the camera lens. The Real World spawned a slew of reality shows, some more morally questionable than others, and now it’s common to turn on the TV and find people dating, marrying, divorcing, you name it.
A shy culture we are not.
But Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites have brought this trend to a whole new level. Compelled to answer the question, “What are you doing?,” we find ourselves sharing information that would once have been considered either too mundane—or too private—to communicate to outside parties. Take, for example, Sara Williams (the wife of Twitter CEO Evan Williams) who tweeted this week about her impending labor and child birth from her hospital bed.
When CNN first reported on the story, Sara Williams had approximately 14,000 followers. A few hours later, over a thousand more tweeps were following her updates. And this wasn’t just some crafty publicity stunt cooked up by the Williams’; the CNN article also quotes some regular Joes (and Janes) who tweeted from the delivery room to update their followers on every contraction.
While the idea of sharing such a personal experience with a group of relative strangers may seem bizarre to some, there is clearly a market for this type of information. And what does this mean for the business world? In today’s culture of over-sharers is there such a thing as too much information?
Bill Alberti, director of business strategy at Greenough client Communispace, recently wrote a blog post suggesting that July’s Twitter hacking may actually have helped the company more than it hurt. Bill argues that the level of transparency brought about by the hacking focused attention on Twitter’s business strategy and, potentially, opened the company up to new avenues for participation, collaboration and partnerships.
Maybe it’s because I’m a child of the Real World generation, but I’m inclined to agree. What do you think?
-Contributed by Kate Finigan. Follow her @PRKateFin