Two months ago, I wouldn't have been too interested. But it's a fascinating subject if you think about it. In fact, I can't wait for his book on the topic, Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live to come out in September.
Prior to the Internet, how many people would have had the opportunity to easily talk to people all over the world? To find an audience at any hour, on any topic? Let alone, relatively inexpensively communicate with a mass audience?
I think implicitly we know the value of sharing and public-ness. That's why we go online and talk with strangers. That's why we share stuff on G+, Facebook and Twitter. But have you really given much thought to the benefits it provides you?
I left MySpace in early 2009. I've hardly been online since then. I posted a few things to Twitter or Facebook, but I was busy sitting on the beach, following my baseball team around the country (Go Giants!), snowboarding, reading, and watching all the TV shows & movies I'd missed in the 7 years I was working like a maniac on MySpace.
Most of my last two years I was with a small group of friends I've known all my life. Then recently I started to "share" in a very public way -- I signed up for Google+ and posted a thought or two about what was going on. Those thoughts got picked up by bloggers and tech news sites. Once my audience got bigger, I decided to start writing about other things -- things that were more important to me than "technology." Suddenly everybody and their mother was reaching out to me. I've been invited to do and participate in so many things in the last month, I could never keep up with it all.
You may think that this would only happen to me. "You're the MySpace guy!" But that's not true. That just accelerated it. Look at who has 10,000 people following her. Just ask her what kind of benefits she's received by being public & sharing her thoughts.
Yesterday I visited my neighbor. He's a tech leader, someone very well known. He's started three or four huge company's and is a unique, interesting person. He and I had met before through work. But as neighbors, and as friends, we'd barely talked. Why? Well, mostly because we were being private. When we met through work years ago, we focused on work. You know what drew us together yesterday? Being public & sharing. It was my attitude that had changed. I'd started to reach out to the world in a way I hadn't before. Even though he lives right down the street, and we've been neighbors for years, we'd never hung out socially. By being public about what interested me, the two of us found out we actually have things in common.
Today another person I've talked to briefly through G+ is coming down to LA and I offered him a place to stay. It's like AirBNB except I'm not charging. :-) Now notice I haven't mentioned who these two fellows are. Maybe they don't want to be named. I haven't asked them. I'm respecting their privacy. Some things can be kept private, but when you're public about other things, wonderful things happen.
Making new friends isn't the only thing that being public & sharing can lead to. I think it can really help lead you to your life's work -- and I'm not talking about a job. I'm talking about what it is that you think you were meant to do with your limited time on this planet. Sharing your ideas tends to build a community around those ideas. And through community and interaction, you'll learn many ways of being and thinking. You won't just find opportunities opening up to engage in things that matter to you ; you'll simply learn about things you never new existed. Can you believe I'd never even heard of before G+? I'm embarrassed to admit it, but it's true. How deep was my head in the sand?
History has shown that the initial reaction to every new technology is fear. As Jeff mentions in the video, writers were initially fearful of putting their thoughts down on paper. I've read that people were scared of the telephone when it was first introduced. When MySpace was new, parents were terrified. Now most people realize the benefits of sites like Facebook, G+ and Twitter, it's generally accepted that the benefits of being online far outweigh the negatives. That said, in the press and in general, we still tend to focus on the negatives of being public, and the supreme value of privacy.
So here's to the positives of "living publicly" online. Try being a little more open about what you're doing, what you find interesting, and what you hope for the world. You never know where it may lead. My guess is, the more open you are, the more the world opens up for you.
Also perfect timing as I'm updating my blog (coming soon, for real) to share all of my failures, and successes too, on my mission to build a community from scratch. Fear is real, but fear can be overcome (I hope!).
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