Trust, Reputation & Honesty

The past couple of days, I’ve run across a couple of items that have me wondering about how much trust and honesty our society and especially our teens have these days.

The first was the title from the TED Talk by Rachel Botsman, “The Currency of the New Economy is Trust.” The video is well worth the 20 minutes to watch:

In a society fueled by social networking and collaboration, online reputation and subsequently trust will be game-changing factors in the face of the new global economy.  As Ms. Botsman states about 17 mins in, “Reputation is currency that says ‘you can trust me’.” Hasn’t this always been true about an aspect of reputation? Reputation has always been something to value offline. But given behaviors we see in our students (and some adults) these days, how much is it valued now in our offline society? How will we handle individuals being honest about themselves online when they cannot even be honest offline? 

Given this new idea of our future economy, I’m very worried given countless articles and books I’ve read that address issues such as cyberbullying or cheating or how individuals hide things on Facebook.  Recently, an article in eSchool News had me shaking my head over the viciousness that individuals have for one another (“Online ‘burn books’ sparking controversy”).  I’m not naive.  I know cyberbullying takes place daily.  But what has worried me in light of Botsman’s video is what reputations can be ruined and how many will use this as an excuse to ruin someone’s reputation?  We see it all the time now so how much more important will this be in the future when it have more far reaching effects?  Cyberbullying, and bullying in general, have had the most tragic of effects as it is.  How much more damaging when it is tied even more heavily to economics.  The viciousness of it escalates.  How come indivdiuals feel they need to be vicious and why does it seem to be more prevailent? Is it simply a case of being more connected or it being in the spotlight or is there something more going on in our society?

Another factor in our schools that had me worried after watching Botsman’s video is cheating which is also tied to honesty. I recently read an article on Read, Write, Web called “How High School Students Use Facebook to Fool College Admissions Officers.”  This article talks about some students upping their privacy settings or changing their names and then changing it back so as to have officials not see their profiles. The disturbing one to me is creating a fake account to fool them.  Some feel that college admission officers are prying into their personal lives.  However, if your personal life is what you want it to be and your personal life is not something to hide, then what is the damage?  Regardless of whether or not Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, you name it, “measures influence not behaviors that indicate our trustworthiness” as Botsman says, how much can we gain about a person or trust a person if we see what we see on Facebook knowing that they could be lying or in their personal life do one thing and something else in their professional lives.  Whether our teens like it or not, what we do in private can effect our public persona and our reputation.  Will they finally see this when it starts hitting their pocketbooks?  Are we as adults showing them this?

 I know I’ve only brought up tons of questions, but I’m seeking to understand this and trying to see about solving the problem for the future rather putting money into more canned programs that may temporarily solve the problem but not the underlying issues.


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