By Marc Schwartz, CPA/CFF, CFE*
Most of us are now very familiar with the adage, "What goes on the Web, stays on the Web". Stories abound of pictures, stories, videos and any number of other memorializations of youthful indiscretions coming back to haunt people every day. This is particularly true in the bankruptcy setting where our propensity to brag and exaggerate can lead to disclosures that are often quickly and easily discernible by a bankruptcy trustee or others working in the field. The rapid growth of social media has only accelerated and, to some degree, exacerbated this propensity.
What exactly is Social Media?
"The best way to define social media is to break it down. Media is an instrument on communication, like a newspaper or a radio, so social media would be a social instrument of communication.
In Web 2.0 terms, this would be a website that doesn't just give you information, but interacts with you while giving you that information. This interaction can be as simple as asking for your comments or letting you vote on an article, or it can be as complex as Flixster recommending movies to you based on the ratings of other people with similar interests."1
"People obtain information, education, news and other data from electronic media and print media. Social media is distinct from industrial or traditional media, such as newspapers, television, and film. Social Media is relatively inexpensive and accessible to enable anyone (even private individuals) to publish or access information, compared to industrial media, which generally require significant resources to publish information."2
Social Media, as we call it today got its start in the late 1950s when "Open Diary" was founded by Bruce and Susan Abelson to bring together diary writers. Around the same time the term "Weblog" came into use, which, the story goes, one jokester truncated into "We blog", hence the origin of Blog. The advent of cheaper and more bandwidth, faster computers, storage space and the internet ushered in the modern world of social media, permitting almost anyone to communicate and interact on the net. This chart (right) will give the reader some feel for the dynamic growth of this phenomenon, showing the growth in Patent applications and grants for social media during the seven years ending in 2010, courtesy of ipwatchdog.com.
Social Media is inexpensive and interactive which means everyone who participates has a chance to communicate to the entire viewing world, which means people will and do put anything and everything on a social media site—often to their later regret. One of the most important aspects of social media to us is its permanency. What is put Online Stays Online.
*Marc Schwartz, CPA/CFF, CFE, is a Founder of HSSK, focusing his practice on litigation consulting and bankruptcy and reorganization services. He is experienced in testifying in federal, state and bankruptcy courts throughout the country and serves as a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Trustee and Examiner.
1 "What is Social Media?: What are Social Media Sites?", Daniel Nations, About.com.
2Kaplan and Haenline, 2010.