In a Facebook world good reputation will stem from integrity

By March 29, 2010 2 Comments

Mike Arrington and Fred Wilson both have posts up today about the impact of social media on reputation.

Mike’s post is titled Reputation Is Dead, It’s Time To Overlook Our Indiscretions and his point is that as more and more of our personal history gets put online if we are going to continue to function as a society we will need to become more tolerant of past minor indiscretions.  I buy into that argument and as a development I think it will bring more honesty into public life.  As someone wrote in the comments it is already happening in politics:

great piece! It’s already happening. In the 80s no politician could admit they’d ever smoked pot in school. By the 90’s Clinton managed with “tried it, but didn’t inhale.” Now it’s no big deal. At one point having been divorced (or getting caught having had an affair) would disqualify you for office. Now divorce is basically a non-issue and few pols can even get away with admitting they had affairs (not that it won’t effect them, but it’s possible). This trend pre-dates the web but the Internet is probably accelerating the shift in our culture.

Fred’s post is titled How To Defend Your Reputation and his point is that we should all take the time to defend our reputation online, and not allow trolls to have the last word.  Again, an argument I buy into.

The big point for me here though is that these developments increase the importance of integrity by making it much harder for anyone to live a lie, and that these arguments apply equally to the reputation of brands as of people.  In his post Fred describes an episode where his integrity was attacked on Hacker News and a reader of Fred’s blog named Mark Essel came to his defence – without knowing the details I am assuming Mark did this because he has been impressed and won over by Fred’s writing, thinking and contributions to the startup scene.  In his Hacker News post Mark even makes the point that one of the reasons he trusts Fred is that his thinking has been consistent.  Consistency is very hard to maintain without integrity.  Kidmercury put it this way in the first comment on Fred’s post (emphasis mine):

the way to win any beef is with the truth. if you want to attack someone’s reputation, find the truth they are afraid of. if you want to be immune to attacks, always tell the truth.

social media is still not evolved enough yet to fully embrace this principle. but it is only a matter of time. on a long enough timeline, the truth always wins. always.

I’m very hopeful that social media will usher in an era of reduced hypocrisy and greater efforts by companies to promote themselves based on the quality of their products and services.  The ride to get there might be a little bumpy though.

In a related point I also think that anonymous comments and posts will lose credence, and that value will accrue to identity verified services.

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