What If Your Network Was Lost Forever?

March 19, 2018

Old school communication without social mediaLast week a Facebook friend posted a silly ‘What If’ game on Facebook based on lyrics to famous songs. What if we are really getting back together? What if Billy Jean is really his lover? And my contribution, what if the lights in the Milky Way were not faded and heaven was not overrated? That’s from a Train song if you didn’t know.

What if is a great mental exercise. It allows us to imagine all of the possibilities in life. Today I am wondering, what if my Facebook account disappeared and I lost contact with my network.

There’s a backstory to this. My dear friend, Joe Rotella was locked out of his Facebook account. Joe is a “famous crafter” who relies on Facebook to reach his customers and fans. He’s insanely funny and creative and people love him. Thank goodness we are “friends in real life” so he could call me when his account was locked. Apparently, in the middle of sharing a big contest he is doing, Facebook flagged him as a bot and locked his account. I’ll spare you the details and suggest you watch this video Joe made. While it details the technical experience, you can see how important it is to him. He has photos of his mother on there. His mother who passed away. It’s important to him. Thankfully, with the help of my networking skills, he was granted access. And I made a new friend in the process.

This brings up a serious concern. What would happen if I lost Facebook? It sounds like a first-world problem, and to a large extent it is. However, like Joe and many others, I connect to many business friends and use Facebook as a way to build relationships for personal and professional reasons. Without it, I might lose complete touch with many people.

Some might argue that if these people were close enough friends that I would have their phone numbers. Or email addresses. Or I would be able to contact them by carrier pigeon. However, Facebook has made it so easy to contact people that it has negated the use for other methods of contact. Facebook is used to promote events that bring people together face-to-face. It’s used to make dinner plans and schedule conference calls. It’s today’s Rolodex.

So what would happen if it disappeared? How would your life change? What would you do if you didn’t have an internet connection? Ted Koppel’s book Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermathdiscusses the real possibility of an event that could devastate our infrastructure and life as we know. I’m not an alarmist, but this is a factor to consider in how and where we develop and foster relationships with other humans. Perhaps it won’t be a full-blown cyberattack, but as security breaches increase, the risk of getting disconnected is real.

For the last ten years, I have been a huge proponent of building relationships online. I have very real friendships that were created on Twitter and have led to sharing my holiday table or a vacation with the people who I met in cyberspace. Social media changed my life.

But now, the landscape is evolving. Security and privacy is a major concern. While I have been an open book, and have always acknowledged that social media is not free. It has always had a cost. One aspect of that cost is having my information sold to the highest bidder as this TechCrunch article suggests. Rather than fearing losing access to Facebook, it suggests willfully deleting it to protect one’s privacy.

This brings me back to my initial concern, what if my network was gone — or the way I access my network was no longer practical. For those who have already deleted Facebook, I often wonder if they can 100% say their lives are richer? I often see people return from a Facebook hiatus because they missed the people they interact with.

Is there a solution? A compromise? A better way to stay connected, to stay engaged in wonderful relationships without social media. Is having a much narrower range of contacts like we all did pre-social media better for us?

I am committed to talking more about how humanity and technology can co-exist. There will be debates and disagreements. I’m looking forward to the ideas that come about and the relationships that are built along this journey.