Computer scientist and author, Jaron Lanier, in a ballyhooed op-ed in the Guardian, challenges us all to delete Facebook.
Lanier was no fan of Facebook before (having already urged people to delete their social media accounts), but after Cambridge Analytica he saw it the perfect time to challenge everyone to beat the addiction, make a political statement and redefine your social life.
The problem for lawyers is that Facebook represents the opportunity to engage the public where they are and on their terms.
Like it or not, lawyers have an ethical obligation to make legal services accessible to people – not just to the impoverished, but to middle income individuals and small business people. To do this as a lawyer you not only need to go where the people are, but you need to establish trust by listening, sharing and nurturing relationships.
More people spend more time on the Internet on Facebook than any other place. Social media, Facebook included, represents the town square, the coffee shop, the church group and the civic board of today. It’s where lawyers establish enough trust and value in people’s minds that legal services, at least though a lawyer, remain a viable answer for consumers and small business people.
Lawyers jumping off Facebook can do so out of fear (perhaps legitimate) or to make a political statement, but by doing so they are turning on the public they serve. Access to legal services will only decline.
Before Facebook, there were ways to do most of the things that Facebook allows, and there still are. There are other ways to keep up with friends, be informed, discover local events, announce your own life events, publish opinions, meet new people, and so on.
That’s simply not true. Before Facebook, lawyers did not have a forum for such engagement with the public. A forum that enables lawyers to bring access to legal services by establishing trust and demonstrating value.
Lest you think the public is bailing on Facebook en masse, I expect you’ll find that the vast majority of Facebook users still find the social network integral to their social, community and professional life.
In fact, Mark Zuckerberg, while apologizing and promising changes protecting privacy, in a conversation with the New York Times’ Kevin Roosecommented on the “Delete Facebook” hashtag campaign on Twitter.
I don’t think we’ve seen a meaningful number of people act on that, but, you know, it’s not good. I think it’s a clear signal that this is a major trust issue for people, and I understand that. And whether people delete their app over it or just don’t feel good about using Facebook, that’s a big issue that I think we have a responsibility to rectify.
There’s much not to like over what we’ve discovered the last week, but my former rector, agreeing with my sentiments on Facebook, may have said it best, ” Facebook remains a true option for something good. But it’s harder to say so.”
For access to legal services, Facebook is more than an option, Facebook represents an opportunity for lawyers to bring access to legal services. As such, lawyers have an obligation to see the storm through.