Thursday, March 24, 2022

Dark Social: Understanding the Darker Side of Work, Personality and Social Media (Ian MacRae)

Social media in the world of business is more than just the outward communication and marketing that are put forth on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and elsewhere. It also involves internal communication, such as Slack or any internal messaging system that allows for communication between colleagues and from management down. Much has been written (and reviewed) about social media and the challenges it poses in society; however, not as much has been written about the challenges communication has within the workplace. 

Ian MacRae’s Dark Social: Understanding the Darker Side of Work, Personality and Social Media tackles social media from a business and leadership perspective. It’s a valiant attempt at helping leaders understand the landscape of the ills of social media - from bots spreading fake messages online to disgruntled employees unloading trade secrets through public and personal channels. Add to this the occasional organizational culture that fosters toxicity in the workplace and MacRae argues that it is a tricky landscape for businesses to negotiate. He argues that companies can put structures and systems in place to foster better internal behavior and help bring out the best in their employees. Much of Dark Social is behavioral psychology and how personalities in the workplace will typically behave. In this aspect, the book is incredibly worth reading.

MacRae does miss the mark in a couple aspects. First, a lack of discussion on the presence of online mobs that can destroy one’s reputation, rightly in some cases, wrongly in many others. How can businesses navigate a Twitter mob that runs with a half-truth or non-truth? Or, how do you limit or mute the presence of these mobs on social media to prevent them from getting out of hand? Second, the book lacks some best practices for individuals in prominent company positions regarding separating business and personal information online. While MacRae is right in pointing out that online and offline personas do not differ markedly, there is little given to best practices on social media usage - and perhaps the idea of a public channel for their official business capacity and a private channel for their cat video sharing. 

While social media is arguably necessary, more discussion should be had on how to navigate the minefield and how to keep personal and business separate, for the good of everyone in a company and those who lead it.