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Unplugged Engineers

By Dan Hadaway | Tuesday, November 9, 2010 - Leave a Comment

Unplugged Engineers:

I recently held a conversation over lunch with a couple engineers who seemed proud to establish that they were not participating in the “social media craze.”   They looked at me with eyebrows raised as I sheepishly admitted that yes, I actually enjoyed checking into Facebook at least once per day.  The rest of the conversation was spent with the two “auditees” lecturing the “auditor” about the risks of social networking versus the rewards.

Kind of ironic, eh?

I suffered through the lecture apologetically.  I found myself saying things like “well sure, the best way to mitigate risk is to not use the technology” and “it’s not like I’m telling them everything I do” and “yes, twitter, facebook, Digg, all the main ones, plus we have our blog.”

Interestingly, they were so dead-set against the use of social media that I didn’t get a chance to explain WHY I like checking into Facebook at least once per day.  I wasn’t able to share how it allows me to keep up with my family and friends in a very short period of time.  I wasn’t able to share how my wife and I will sit in our living room, laptops in laps, giggling about a wall-post here or a picture there, reading potential comments to each other before hitting the blue comment button, just to be sure we’re not being accidentally rude or crass or insensitive.

Instead, I found myself agreeing with them about all the risks of social media.  I even offered examples of what they were saying from horror stories I had seen in articles.  I explained that my biggest concern about social networking was indiscriminate friending . . . that connecting with people you do NOT know is a risk.

And I shared what I had read in an opinion piece about how social networking fans are narcissistic and have nothing better to do with their time than tell the rest of the world what they were doing.  Because of my defensive stance, I was not able to realize the irony of the situation.

Not until later, on my way home from the conference, did I laugh about how the technical people were scolding me, Mister Laggard himself, for adapting a risky technology.  Kind of ironic, eh?

There was a time, not very long ago in fact, that I too was just as insistent that the time spent on social media sites was time wasted.  But nowadays, I liken it to DVR.  Remember when we would ask:  “Why in the world would anybody ever need to record television programs?”

Now the only television I watch in real time is sporting events.   I heard people complain about all the negative political advertising, but I saw very few ads this year.  I watch more television in less time.  I swear by my DVR.  I don’t remember what life was without it.

The same thing happened to me with text messaging.  I confess, I never sent a text (though I did receive a few) until February of this year, when we all got our new Droids.  I said, “go ahead, sign me up for texting.  I doubt I’ll ever use it, but I should at least try it so that my clients won’t think I’m inept.”

I’m not saying that those two engineers are somehow wrong in their decision to “let the social networking thing pass.”  Nor was I wrong when I refused to use text messaging.  But I’ve never been as in-touch with my youngest daughter as I am now that she and I text, and the only way to get through to my oldest daughter is via a Facebook message.

Though my daughters had me using Facebook, it was my job that forced me to learn the other social networking channels.  When our clients started asking for our help in managing social media risk, we rolled up our sleeves and dived in.  We created our own social media strategy.  We started our blogs.

You see, we too had no clue why anybody would ever want to use Twitter or Youtube.  We had barely heard of Digg, and we didn’t even consider that Craigs List could be considered a social media site.  We shivered when we realized that tinyurls came with a whole set of new risks.

So we decided to integrate social media into our own business strategy.  We then developed some pretty good tactical plans, and executed them.

So yes, oh venerable engineers, I am indeed a social networker.

And yes, I am indeed having fun with it.

But hey, there are risks with all technologies.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use the technology.

And hey, when you do eventually get around to plugging in, check out our Facebook page!

It’ll help you with the risk!

Dan’s New Leaf is a blog by:

Dan Hadaway, CISA, CISM, CRISC

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