Thursday, June 19, 2008

Let's Talk Business

When you think of social websites, I have no doubt that what comes to mind is something like; some Ashley or Courtney prattling on about that cute boy in biology class; or Dude and Dude comparing Phish concert tapes. But take note—Facebook and MySpace have new competition within the cosmic constant of cybernation. A social network for business professionals, called LinkedIn, has just arrived for the career-minded, white collar camarilla. According to Dan Nye, the chief executive of LinkedIn, “We want to create a broad and critical business tool that is used by tens of millions of business professionals every day to make them better at what they do.” In other words—build a network.

Business networking is the process of establishing a beneficial relationship with other business people and potential clients and/or customers. The purpose is to increase business revenue. With this new site, people will be able to create and maintain online résumés and establish links with colleagues and acquaintances, then be able to expand their network through contacts. This career driven caucus doesn’t have time to waste with developing real relationships. It is too slow and too grueling: tennis, dinners, golf, charity balls, etc.

If you are not included in this sodality, you may have discerned how boring they may appear. Anton Chekhov said, “People who lead a lonely existence always have something on their minds that they are eager to talk about.” Now there is no genetic trait that says a person is doomed to be boring. Perhaps their terms of reference make them that way. To me, business types tend to talk about themselves too much. If you are not in their club, you don’t exist. Have you ever been talked down to, because you work in the service industry?

The fact is—some of the smartest and most interesting people I have ever met were not rich business folk, but had normal working class jobs.

Now, let’s consider all the lying that is going to take place on this site. A survey entitled Manners and Behavior released by the website found that 30% of men and 19% of women believe telling white lies online is acceptable. And don’t forget that almost everyone involved in online dating is lying, just to get laid. Think what people will say to get ahead in the business world. I remember a cartoon, from my youth, where a retired British military officer told the most fantastic tales of heroism and bravery. In fact, so utterly fantastic as to be laughable. I can see it now, “Warren Buffet and I waved as our Gulfstreams passed at 50 thousand feet.”

There will also be a whole can of worms opened when business rivals start slandering each other, because now Internet providers as well as individual users can be liable for intentionally distributing defamatory information online. LinkedIn may find themselves busy policing their site to remove postings from chatrooms and message groups, whenever someone complains about a libelous statement made by a third party.

The 1st District Court of Appeals, in Barrett v. Rosenthal, AO96451, disagreed with the decision of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Zeron v. America Online Inc., 129 F.3rd 327. In that case, a federal three-judge panel dismissed a plaintiffs complaint that AOL did nothing to stop an unidentified third party who maliciously posted messages on an AOL bulletin advertising offensive T-shirts and listing the plaintiff’s home phone number.

Ouch! Lying in cyberspace just got riskier.

One more thing to look out for: the résumé. In 2004, the federal Government Accountability Office released a report that found that at least 28 senior-level federal workers had claimed degrees from diploma mills and other unaccredited schools. It doesn’t take much imagination, to wonder what hyperbolical embellishments will appear in this new network.

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