Sadly, TV icon Andy Griffith recently passed away, resulting in many moving tributes (such as this one) that not only recognized Griffith's groundbreaking '60's sitcom, The Andy Griffith Show, but also mourned the loss of the small town values that the series portrayed in such great fashion.
Mayberry, the fictional North Carolina community where the show was set, was a town where everyone knew everyone else's business. It was a place where transparency, integrity and trust made up the social currency that counted. Relationships were as real as they come and people looked after each other.
These are all values we assume are lost to the rerun-laden programming of TV Land and the like—but, when you really think about it, we may have come full circle and what works in the 2012 social media communities isn't all that different from what worked in Mayberry. It's easy to imagine Aunt Bee posting recipes on Pinterest, Deputy Barney Fife furiously networking on LinkedIn, Goober and Gomer tweeting auto care tips and Sheriff Andy thinking about how he can paint Mayberry in the best light on its Facebook fan page.
That's because social media taps into the very qualities that makes a Mayberry so memorable. Every site has its own little communities that thrive on trust, respect and a shared interest in the common good. These cyber-communities instantly reject phonies or those who spew insults and respond to those who seek to contribute and nourish. Instead of meeting in the middle of town and whipping out the latest pictures of the kids or grandkids, we post them on Facebook and wait for the "Likes" to add up.
As a matter of fact, when you really take a close look at social media, the values that seemed true in Mayberry are actually more powerful today, and it might just be that Andy started a social movement that technology now fuels to global prominence.
Think about a company like Zappos that defined itself through social media. When they were hacked a few months ago and suddenly 24 million customers' personal information was compromised, the company had to be open and transparent or risk being rejected by its core base, its "townspeople."
And when you violate the unspoken rules of ethics in social media? Well, fashion designer Kenneth Cole made a huge error when he sent out the following tweet last year during the Egyptian uprisings: "Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at http://bit.ly/KCairo -KC." Plenty of followers thought he was taking a tragedy way too lightly and he was forced to apologize on his Facebook page.
You also can't keep a secret any better than you could in Mayberry. When something happened there, you could be assured that everybody in town knew who did what to who within 24 hours. Now, between Facebook and Twitter, it's more like five minutes. Consider the fact that, when pop superstar Whitney Houston died, the news went out on Twitter twenty-seven minutes before the traditional media broke the story.
We talk about the decline of morality in today's society, but the truth is, when it comes to social media, we're more "Mayberry" than we realize. Thoughtless comments are quickly condemned, we are demanding more transparency in politics and corporate America, and we are quickly affirming the positive social movements whether it be for children, seniors or animal rights. Online relationships also quickly become as close and genuine as any in a small town - even though the people involved may never have actually met each other in person!
So consider Mayberry the spiritual birthplace of our social media networks of today. We're all the collective sheriff of cyberspace...and let's hope we're all as wise, congenial and understanding about this responsibility as Andy Griffith (who appropriately enough, was given a special social media send-off).