As a counterpoint to my post last week, I wanted to talk about why I’m on social media at all, and the fine line I find myself sometimes walking in that regard.
TL;DR: I’m deeply invested in amplifying the voices of underrepresented folx; using my platform to help make the world better for all people; and bringing my whole self to conversations. Events happen in the and I’m aware the best response is to quiet myself down, listen, make space, and show respect. But sometimes, in contradiction to that impulse, I also have to pay the bills. When outrage, frustration, or grief take over the public space, I try to do what’s right for as long as possible. But there comes a point where I have to honor my professional responsibilities as well.
In “Batman Begins” Bruce learned that maintaining a focus on one’s surroundings is sometimes more important than the actions of one’s opponent or their goal.
For sure, one cannot focus on surroundings to the exclusion of the opponent, but rather it’s a constant balance of attention, or (for the technical readers) rapid task switching if not true multi-tasking.
The reason I bring this up is because now, more than ever, I have to mind my surroundings.
My job as a speaker, author, and advocate in tech – my dream job, in other words – affords me the chance to write articles in a wide variety of publications, to speak at a variety of conferences, and to be active on social media as part of my job.
I mean, how cool is that? I get PAID to tweet, blog, like, follow, pin, post to instagram, and more!
BUT… it comes with a price tag – I’m expected to be professional. Which isn’t a big deal most of the time. I like being professional. I think that being polite, kind, positive, encouraging, insightful, introspective, self-deprecating, and (when I’m lucky) funny is kind of my jam.
Nevertheless, there are things that push my buttons. It could be an decision (whether by an individual or a corporation) that I feel is unjust; an event that touches on a cause that’s important to me, my family, or my community; a technical choice that rubs me the wrong way; or a moment of grief so powerful that it drowns out everything else.
Or maybe I’m just ornery that day.
The challenge is in the trade-off I pay for my privilege. In exchange for getting paid to write and speak and tweet, I have to acknowledge I represent more than just myself. If I lose my cool and call someone a flaming jack-wagon on Facebook, it’s not just Leon’s opinion (no matter how many “opinions are my own” disclaimers I put in my profile). Effectively, I and the company I represent have just called someone a flaming jack-wagon.
And that is what we call in IT circles a “Resume generating event”.
SO… this is a reminder (which I re-post from time to time):
- I am me. A person with opinions about life, religion, politics, food, operating systems (Linux!), healthcare, tabs vs spaces (SPACES!), whether it’s the network’s fault (it’s never the network), and much more.
- I am also (and, I should add, PROUDLY) a brand representative for a publicly traded company.
Sometimes my public activity will be part of “paying the bills”. In the middle of a jarring and possibly enraging moment in our society, you’ll see me tweet about the next a blog post or a talk I’m giving. Or conversely, I may be strangely silent about the thing everyone is talking about.
That doesn’t mean I’m a shill, or that my account is operated by a soul-less corporate robot. It just means that I have to mind my surroundings, and make sure that I’m not sacrificing the sure footing of my platform and support for the fleeting glory of a temporary social media moment.