Sunday, November 02, 2008

Are My Private Parts Showing?

I use a few online social networks and frequently post about family and professional matters. I try not to get too personal and I do take GREAT efforts not to raise a flag in my professional life. But, there are times when the urge to reach out to my network slips passed my "think-twice" filter such as here. But aren't we allowed to separate our work-selves from our social-selves? I know we choose to be as public/private as we want, but what about when people make assumptions about you based on a public posting and because of that your job or reputation is in jeopardy?

Such happened here to Steve Rubel after he posted this tweet. Granted, this is an old reference (2007) but I believe it is very relevant. Somehow I don't think he was posting as a representative of his company, thus his personal Twitter name. Isn't he permitted some private Twitter-time?

There are many Twitterers that post on behalf of their companies. I know I follow a few such as Starbucks, VoiceThread and Diigo. From these tweets, I expect tips, best practices and maybe even a trivia contest here and there. There's an expectation from a corporate name, even on Twitter. If there's an avenue for corporate tweets and an avenue for personal tweets, why are we having such a hard time separating the authors and their intentions?

Do you personally/or professionally know some of the people in your online social network? Ever have someone in your office, while speaking to you in person, comment about something you've said online? Does that feel a little creepy?

What about others taking personally what we choose to do online? As online social networks evolve, more programmers are developing tools such as Twitter Karma and Qwitter. I received an email, from Qwitter, one morning telling me someone stopped following me after some mundane tweet like, "Enjoying my morning coffee." So, curiously I clicked through to see who this person was since I wasn't following her, had no idea who she was or why my tweet offended her. So, around the same time she stopped following me, she posted this:

  1. I wasn't even following her.
  2. I wouldn't stop following someone based on her assumption that day, and
  3. I wouldn't want someone thinking I did!
Such a great avenue for causing hard feelings in an arena where so much good can be gleaned.

I received a tweet out of the blue one day from @Shazzandrob (who has since deleted her acct) that stated something like "How about you remove 'HockeyMom' from your profile and we'll all be more comfortable?"

What? Who is this? Again, not someone I follow or ever heard of. Yeah, yeah, I know why she sent me that but why would someone make assumptions about someone's beliefs in one arena when they are engaging in another? My mother always told me to ignore comments like this. So I did AFTER I responded:

Her response back to me was an apology, sort of. She said she didn't know WE were so sensitive and they don't have HockeyMoms in New Zealand. Do the hockey players in NZ know that?

As much as I love Twitter, there are times when I agree with Jen Wagner that it's just like High School! In many ways, I don't want to graduate because I'm learning so much and having a lot of fun with my friends. Yet, is graduation inevitable?

Will we be forced to leave our social networks because of the potential for personal or professional damage?



Suzanne D. said...

You bring up some good points. I love my twitter and Plurk account- I love the feedback I get and it seems that the people who follow me and I follow are on the same page. Some days you are just 'having one of those days' Yes, of course I would hate it if a stdnt. stumbled upon me saying something like- dreading this afternoon- but sometimes my fellow networkers give me some supportive comments and it's nice to know we are not alone in this endeavor. I think for the most part we all keep things light- and of course these those 'private' Plurks fr something that you don't want the world to see. ANd my privacy settings are pretty strong.

Anonymous said...

Just yesterday, I had to take down some thoughts because I was sharing with my network on a decision that I am making -- and realized that I am now also being followed by some staff at my work -- and am not ready to share with them my decisions. (don't want to put the cart before the horse, you know??)

It is interesting to me, because I want my school to be on board.....but I am not sure I want them to be always in my "online" world. My boss now has a facebook account....he has befriended me, and that has set me back just a bit.

I guess what I am realizing is that my two worlds are now slowly colliding.....and the safety of talking to just my network (and I know nothing is secret on the internet) but my perceived safety of "just talking with friends" is now including more than just "online pals".

And an additional thought, if I may....I believe the honeymoon of twitter is over. I am unsure if you feel the same.....but we are becoming very comfy with each other, to the point that at times common courtesy eludes us. Personally I have become very wary of saying anything that might rock the boat......because of how I have seen people just ripped to shreds quickly on twitter. That saddens me......

But then I need to remember, at many times, though some people will disagree.........twitter is very equal to real life situations and we won't always agree, and sometimes people will be just downright rude. And at times surprisingly kind as well.

cliotech said...

I loved this post!

I am very careful about what I post on Twitter and Plurk, especially because I know that my boss occasionally checks my blog and I have a Plurk-roll widget embedded there.

It is very interesting to see how people interact on microblogs. I am selective about who I follow. When I receive friend/follow requests I first visit the user's page to review the profile description and I scroll through the posts. If the user is not a personal friend or an educator in some capacity I usually do not follow. I do follow a few news agencies. I also follow some "company" users like Diigo, SlideShare, netTrekker, Discovery Educator Network, Vociethread, etc. I have actually found this to be really helpful when I post questions or problems - I get free and timely help.

I have stopped following people in the past when they used what I considered to be inappropriate language. I have even blocked some users for those reasons as well. I have also stopped following people recently who were using their microblogs to aggressively campaign for their favorite presidential candidate (to the point of practically spamming their network) or who were using this forum for market specific products.

In general, I find that even "professionals" can cross the line sometimes; it happens in person as well as online. I think that as this medium evolves and the community collectively sets a standard for use we will see fewer instances of misuse. We can model appropriate online behavior with our own posts.

This was a really thought-provoking post. Thanks!

Doug said...

This is a good thing to think about. Of course, we are all aware that anything on the internet can be seen by anyone, but I don't think we will always know how people interpret it! Here is what I have done. I have pretty much decided that my twitter would be mostly related to my professional life...i.e. relating to teaching and music. I decided that I would post my more personal things on Facebook, where only my friends can see them, since I have really strong privacy rules on there. Your post was a great reminder!

Mrs.A said...

I agree our worlds are colliding, and I've had to rethink some posts, and take them private at times because I wasn't sure if my comments would be taken wrong or should be public. I do not allow fans or have my twitter page public. I accept requests to be my friend if we have something or someone in common. I try not to let some of the cliques bother me, and reach out to my PLN or offer assistance as best as I can. I realize that I won't agree with everything tweeted or plurked, and just need to respect those differences.

Anonymous said...

I think that posting some personal information helps in the relationship-building of a network. I belong to twitter and plurk so I can get advice and support in my efforts as an educator, but it's kinda cool to know that we all share the joys and challenges of being parents, pet owners, or whatever. I don't mind the occasional mundane comment about drinking coffee, or sleeping late. It reminds me that the posts from my PLN come from people just like me. I am however, careful with what I say in my posts, being mindful of the privacy of my family members and co-workers. Thanks for your thoughtful post.

Tim said...

As usual, your post is thought-provoking. I, too, want my co-workers to enjoy the online world I inhabit, but I'm not sure I want to give up my freedom to post openly about work!

You have really caused me to think about your question, "Is graduation inevitable?" We have such a short online attention span that we are off to the "next big thing" pretty quickly. For now, like you, I'm having fun. I guess that's all that matters.

Lee Ann Spillane said...

Public or private, which is it when posting online? Personal or professional? I do think we are allowed both lives, but we need to be selective online. I've often wondered if I'm selective enough. As a newbie, I think I am lulled into believe that no one is actually listening--from the lack of comments and @replies I get, it is easy to think that.

I am momentarily taken aback when someone at work, or in my professional life mentions something I've posted online. Odder still when my husband's colleagues mention it. Now that blogger is not accessible from either of our workplaces, I imagine that the face2face blog commenting will happen less.

I take my online life for granted. I want teachers on my team reading blogs and commenting. I want us to learn together and to form PLNs and to grow. At the same time, I want my family and friends to share thoughts on flickr and keep in touch via facebook. When I think about it, I don't want the two worlds to collide. Though that collision is inevitable, isn't it?