in praise of the transparent conversation

recently facebook changed its corporate mission to emphasize the role of private groups. in response a new york times reporter spent a month exploring these private groups, to see what they could tell him about the company’s future.

“after all, if facebook is our global town square, then groups are its gated subdivisions, the private spaces where people gather to share information they might not be willing to broadcast publicly, or behave in ways they might not want their friends to know about.”

i’m curious about this seeking of privacy in an always-on world. my first reaction is that facebook is nurturing caves where people can go out of shame or fear, to seek the information they really want, to say the things they really want to say, with a fair degree of certainty they won’t be challenged. But…

And here’s what triggers my curiosity: Are we losing the civility that is required to have a good, meaningful discussion? are we losing our ability to have an open conversation with people who disagree with us? Are we losing our ability to learn, and change our minds?

this back channel style isn’t just happening on facebook. it’s happening on wall street, in hollywood, and in national government here and abroad as well.

In a different ny times article the implication of what seems to me to be the business equivalent of snapchat is explored. Encrypted and self destructing texts. Cool. but what happens when regulations that have been put into place for the protection of the people are gone around?  “whether they are trying to evade the law, arrange fragile deals or just talk candidly without fear of being snooped on, business executives and other leaders have many reasons for wanting a private back channel.”

at a time when consumers are putting their money where their values are, transparency is a powerful business tool.

when collaboration and common cause are our greatest hope for a world we want to occupy, perhaps civil, transparent conversation is our greatest tool.