It’s a No Filter Digital Culture

Having been actively engaged with social media for the past five years, one of the more fascinating phenomena is how it has become an anything goes medium. No matter what’s on your mind, you can say it, and many people say it on a regular basis with astounding bluntness and honesty about their professional and personal lives.

Many people seem to have a complete lack of personal digital filters. There doesn’t seem to be a “pause” button before they hit the “submit” or “enter” button. Whether it’s a blog post, Facebook update or tweet, these unfiltered thoughts are propelled into the digital ether with nary a thought of their impact.

A high-profile case in point is Twitter lead developer Alex Payne, who wrote critical review of his two years in San Francisco, describing it “dirty”, “filthy” and “disgusting”. Payne’s assessment may, in fact, be accurate and he has the right to criticize San Francisco but his post makes me wonder about how there could be an “up side” to making a public proclamation.

Of course, Payne’s blog post is mild compared with some of the things that many people reveal via social media. There’s information to be shared with friends and family, and there’s information to be shared with everyone, but many people seem to have forgotten the difference.

We’re living amid fascinating times when the ability to publish your thoughts and ideas has never been easier. But just because you can publish any of your thoughts and ideas doesn’t mean you should.

If there’s an enterprising developer out there, they should create an auto-delay feature for blogs, Facebook and Twitter that keeps a message/post from appearing for five minutes. This would give people some time to reflect on what they had done before it hits the public domain.

What do you think? Am I being hyper-sensitive?

More: Gawker has more on Payne’s blog post. Another good example of someone who paid the consequences for blabbing via social media was a woman named in “Lindsay” in the U.K., who came home after a bad day at work, and then talked about it on Facebook. Not surprisingly, she was fired.

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  • Jeremy Toeman

    Mark – I basically agree with the premise, but have come to accept that it's just like drivers. Most people actually do a good job driving most of the time, but occasionally become idiots. Now as much as it seems like we are surrounded by them every time we get behind the wheel ourselves, in all reality it's the exceptions that we notice… Long-winded, I know, but I think for the most part, most people actually do use social services "well" most of the time. But when they don't, it's a freaking trainwreck out there.

  • Greg Boutin

    Mark, I personally find that absence of filter very refreshing. We have come to see formal and positive communications as the only acceptable ones, and that leaves aside a huge volume of information that can be useful and/or fun. The only case I can see for a filter is when some information is confidential, such as IP or time-sensitive information.

    Except for that, transparency should guide our communications, and that does include publicly expressing negative emotions at times -rather than repressing them. Although there is much more to it, San Francisco is indeed quite dirty – I noticed that too during my last visit. And that workplace the woman described might have been a bad environment to work in. Or not. Because someone doesn't express it as constructively as one would hope doesn't mean there isn't information to extract from it. Unfortunately, our culture makes us focus on the tone rather than the content. That employer who fired the woman who complained about her workday is an imbecile: in my opinion, s/he should have drawn lessons from it and responded constructively. It takes some smarts and certainly some patience, but they missed an opportunity to engage and make some progress.
    Our response to negative messages is what limits their utility. Change the response, and you might find that a whole new world of information has just opened.

  • Matt John

    Hey Mark,

    I'm all for no filter but not at the expense of one's dignity as well.

    Tweetlater and let you schedule posts for tweets and blogs.