Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Trending Towards Transparency – How the Internet is Forcing People to be ‘Real’

Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, and LinkedIn. What do all these sites have in common? They have created a startling new trend among people – being transparent. More and more there are adults on these sites and they are sharing with the world many things that only true friends would know about them. For instance, on Twitter I follow people that I have never met in person; I can tell you where they live, their style of music, what makes them laugh, and their favorite animal. It isn’t just ‘regular folk’ either; politicians, corporations, artists and more are on these sites in an effort to connect with the public and make their business seem more real and trustworthy. I commented about our recent post on innovation on twitter and within an hour I had an UPS employee contacting me to tell me that he has given up left turns in his real life as well!

The best part is that when politicians do anything, others pass along the information. Good, bad, funny—we’ll all know before the 6 o’clock news. That’s a scary thought. President Obama used Twitter and YouTube to his advantage during his campaign by keeping them constantly updated and personal. Someone in his employ understood the importance of instant, transparent access to information, giving him a decided advantage. President Obama has continued using these ideas to be more transparent now that he is in office as well.

According to Las Vegas Sun, the administration has created multiple ways for the public to monitor the stimulus spending. The president thinks that the public must know how government is spending the tax-payer’s money. “The White House created a Web site — www.recovery.gov — for citizens to track progress of spending. And the stimulus bill… contains $330 million for oversight, including $221 million to strengthen the inspectors general and $25 million for the Government Accountability Office…” Another way that the Obama administration is monitoring spending is through the creation of a special faction called the Accountability and Transparency Board, which will be headed by Earl Devaney, former Interior Department inspector general. Devaney states that he will work to stop fraud and waste, not merely detect it as previous administrations have.

This is a huge improvement from previous administrations that have been known for trying to hide what they’re actually doing. Maybe Obama is learning from some of the best Social Media experts who stress constantly that the best way to gain people’s trust and respect is to simply be yourself and hide nothing. Contrary to comedian Lewis Black’s popular skit, Americans don’t want to be lied to anymore. With the internet providing so many sources of instant information, people don’t want to wait to know anymore. While not everyone approves of the action taken by the Obama administration, they aren’t hiding anything; they let everything show on the internet in a wide variety of venues.

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