I logged into LiveJournal today for the first time in … well, forever. The last post I made there was in 2006, one year after I finished my time at St Andrews. I started it as an open blog, because, as someone in my late teens, I assumed many people would want to live vicariously through an American studying in Europe. Once my parents stumbled upon it, however, I locked it, only allowing the blog to be viewed by people I had previously friended.
My first forays into social media were of a personal nature. LiveJournal, as I mentioned before, was a utility for me to keep in contact with my high school friends when I went abroad for college. I joined Facebook as soon as the site was opened to my university, before it was opened to the public. I joined Twitter in 2008 only intending to follow my friends and companies that interested me. I had long-standing accounts with MySpace and Friendster.
I joined LinkedIn in 2006, obviously for purely business reasons; I had recently joined the job force and was looking to connect not only with the network I had developed at university but also with potential employers.
Today, everyone stresses that social media should portray “the real you” but that one should use discretion in posts, because, God help us, everyone and anyone can see any post you ever made, ever.
When I first started with social media, I was the real me. Yes, I do swear in my personal life (and with the coworkers with whom I am very close). And in my early social media posts, I had no problems with swearing–or with alluding to anything in my personal life–in my posts. But it seems like you can be fired for anything you post…even if it’s on your own time. Examples like a teacher who was fired for posting a picture of herself with a glass of wine in one hand and a beer in the other or the woman who complained about her boss while forgetting she had friended him on Facebook just show us that nothing is sacred in the social media realm.
We have to maintain some semblance of professionalism while still trying to maintain our own personality, but that can be a difficult task.
Ann Handley posted a fascinating article about this. In it, she says,
The former means showing that you’re a real human being, with actual blood flowing through actual veins. You have a point of view, real character, a personality.
The latter is sharing details that are intimate or too specific to you to have relevance for the larger community you are trying to build.
Essentially, that means that you can be as personal and as intimate as you can be, but you need to believe you’re behaving the same as you would at a work function or a networking event. That is to say, behave on social media as if you’ve only had two glasses of wine, versus the way you would behave–or speak–if you’ve had a few tequila shots with your buddies on a Friday night.
Facebook has a history of publicizing things that were previously private and have faced a lot of backlash for it, but the company is not the true victim of this. You are. A lot of profiles became very public after their system changes, and its members had to be very conscious of these issues, and chance their privacy changes accordingly.
The point is, one should consider that everything he/she posts on social networks is completely and utterly public. Act as though you were spending time with your grandmother–you are relatively open about your personal life, but you don’t go into detail, and you certainly don’t swear, make naughty jokes or blast people you know around her. As the movies say, “discretion is advised.”
Have you, or anyone you know, ever gotten into trouble at work for a social media post that you or they considered to be “personal”?
Image from http://eofdreams.com/breakfast.html