I was burning the midnight oil recently, starting to write an important piece that was due in a couple of days. It didn't take long for me to realize that the job ahead of me would be much harder than I'd thought. Frankly, at that moment it seemed impossible that I could deliver quality work in such a short time. (Panic is often an essential part of the writing process.)
Feeling the need to vent in some small way, I updated my Facebook status to read, "Wade is deeply, DEEPLY unsettled." Then I got to work.
The next morning I had an e-mail waiting for me from Geoff Bilbrough, my overboss in London. The subject line of his message read, "Is deeply unsettled." In it was a simple question: Is there anything I should know or can do?
Personally, I was mortified. Professionally...well, I was still mortified. But I was also delighted: what a great case study for social networking in the workplace. Geoff knew the state of mind of one of his people working half a world away, and could step in to offer help if it was needed. Facebook had turned him into Obi-Wan Kenobi.
I sheepishly wrote back to explain my situation and assure him that this was a bear I had to fight myself. He said that he uses more than Facebook to read people's minds: people have unintentionally telegraphed their moods and their project statuses to him through the "enter a personal message" field in our company's IM client. If a team is working all through the night to deliver a product on time, chances are good that at least one of its members is sending out a signal that Geoff is picking up.
Knowing that the boss is keeping an eye on such things makes me much less likely to post something like, "Wade is feeling the urge to set himself on fire and jump out the window." I just don't want to have to explain that one the next day.
But knowing that Geoff is using social networking as sort of a low-level telepathy within the company, I can use it to connect with him very easily when I need to; and I've learned to read his mind pretty well, too. We're now bouncing ideas off each other about how we can use these tools more intentionally, giving Jedi powers to everyone at Metia.
Twitter creates a social sixth sense, says Clive Thompson. Add Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and instant messaging to the mix, and you can perform some amazing feats of awareness. Just use your powers for good and not evil.
(Photo by ThunderChild5)