LOOKING TO THE FUTURE 187
Social media will continue to be viewed as both ‘‘good’’
and ‘‘bad.’’ Let’s face itsocial media is a controversial topic.
We’d like to think that experimenting with social media always
pans out, but there are definite risks. With increased use,
dependency is inevitable. In April 2009, a clandestine team of
troublemakers systematically cut AT&T fiber optic cables, creat-
ing a massive service outage in two Northern California cities.
12
Work in both cities haltedno Internet, no cell phone service,
and no cable television for the entire population. Dubbed ‘‘cable
crooks’’ and ‘‘fiber felons,’’ these savvy saboteurs highlighted
just how vulnerable we have become to technology failures. In
addition, the value of transparency will continue to clash with
the demands of privacy and security. It’s almost schizophrenic.
While demanding increasing visibility and accountability, many
will resent how social media increasingly encroaches on their
personal lives. In our work with a large credit union, some direc-
tors constantly complain about the inundation of meaningless,
‘‘non-value-added’’ chatter, while others complain about the
lack of information and online participation. These dichotomies
of perspective will always exist. As leaders and organizations,
we will need to find new ways to constructively deal with the
polarities.
How Society Will Use Social Media
We cannot resist the opportunity to think on a grander scale. We
have seen how social media has expanded the ability of any
organization to operate as a force across the globe to meet
its goals. We anticipate that the way we define ‘‘organization’’
or ‘‘community’’ will expand as well to meet our collective
global challenges. We see the broadening of ‘‘organizations’’
into global communities to solve the world’s biggest challenges.
Imagine the impact social media will have on the following world
issues.
Social media will continue to shrink the global neighbor-
hood. The steam engine ushered commerce into a new era, linking
trade and the transportation of goods to a larger marketplace.
188 SOCIAL MEDIA AT WORK
When the airplane became a viable means of transportation for
the general public, people began to travel more, and the world
became smaller. In the same way, social media will become a
way to make physical location a moot point in the formation of
relationships. As people work more globally and make and main-
tain connections virtually, they will gain greater appreciation of
diversity and culture.
Social media will change government. We have already
seen the seeds of this change in the United States. But for any
government that seeks to serve the needs of its people, social
media provides a ready means for constituents to have their
voices heard. It will be inexcusable for elected officials not to
understand the desires of those they represent.
Social media will boost the fitness of health care. As
we’ve seen in real case examples and in our imaginary scenario,
social media has huge implications for the training of medical
professionals and for operational efficiencies. In addition, the
opportunities for collaboration among experts within a broader
ecosystem will accelerate the identification of preventive mea-
sures and cures for the diseases that plague the planet. Researchers
on the human genome project have already found that wikis are
a valuable tool to promote collaboration and quality annotation.
Imagine the possibilities for facilitating the collective genius of
the biomedical and scientific communities.
Social media will take a bite out of crime.Many reports
cite the lack of coordination and collaboration among intelli-
gence agencies and police forces. For example, regarding the tragic
attack on the World Trade Center, the 9/11 Commission Report
noted that ‘‘the biggest impediment ... to a greater likelihood
of connecting the dotsis the human or systemic resistance to
sharing information.’’
13
Social media is all about sharing infor-
mation. These tools can help foster a collaborative mind-set,
transcending any natural resistance to coordinate efforts.

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