Be careful not to let your worlds collide

George Costanza

I had an interesting conversation with someone recently about how they used to enjoy my Twitter feed more before I became the spokesman for a politician. It was an eye-opening discussion in a couple of ways.

For a bit of background, my personal Twitter feed is @aribadler, but I also am the primary operator of the Twitter account for my employer, Speaker of the House Jase Bolger. That feed is @SpeakerBolger.

I thought I was doing a good job of keeping the two worlds separate, at least as much as you possibly can when it comes to social media. I have no delusions that what I post to both accounts can and will be used against me personally or in my role as the Speaker’s press secretary. So, I’ve been careful with what I’m posting to @aribadler, to make sure I’m not saying or doing anything that can be twisted on me. Of course, the political ideologues will always find a way to use every utterance out of context, but I’m basing my decisions on what reasonable people would think, not those blinded by political rage.

What I had not really considered was whether what I’m doing at work could impact my personal account. I haven’t done much more political ranting on @aribadler than I had in the past, but I’m sure some stuff has shown up there. I have put links to various news stories that I’ve been in on my Twitter feed and on my Facebook page. They weren’t there so much as a way to spread the message contained within, but rather as a way to show my friends and followers what I’ve been up to as a press secretary.

That’s why the conversation from the other night was so enlightening. I’ve been careful not to let comments from my personal world invade into my professional world, and yet I haven’t been as vigilant in the other direction. As this person said, she’s always enjoyed reading my Twitter stream because it was about a lot of things — some interesting to her and some not, some funny and some not. But, she said, it’s not going to be as enjoyable to follow me if I let too much political messaging seep in.

I’ve scrolled through my feed and haven’t seen too much more political stuff there than I had previously, but it does exist. So, I’m going to put up a better barrier — one that keeps my worlds from colliding not just on the work side, but on the personal side, too. I’m sure George Costanza from Seinfeld would agree that’s really for the best.


Hey, Big Brother, over here — the copy

Below is a post I did for Digital Pivot. While there is some overlap, this blog tends to get visitors who don’t read Digital Pivot, and I think the question is a valid one for everyone, so I wanted to see if there were some folks here that would comment, too:


1984-coverI’ve had the topic of personal vs. professional online activity come up in Twitter discussions and during presentations to folks wanting to explore social media. It seems that whether we’ve been at this for a while or it’s a strange new playground, none of us are really very comfortable making a decisive argument about how your personal and professional life should or shouldn’t collide via your online activities. (I wonder how George Costanza would survive the Internet!?!)

If I make a bad pun or a risque comment on Twitter, and it’s been known to happen, should that impact how people treat me at work? If a picture of me gets posted on Facebook or Flickr for the world to see and I’m doing something that others wouldn’t agree with, is that a problem for me in a business meeting later? If a blog post I write is written specifically to provoke a discussion but someone who does business with my company disagrees, will that come back to haunt my employer?

David Mullen recently blogged about how teens and twenty-somethings may start to leave Facebook because they’re finding it too creepy to have family members befriending them, among other reasons. But as the comments responding to his blog point out, there isn’t anywhere these folks are going to go where they won’t be facing the same problem. And it’s a problem a lot of us are facing or will face at some point in our careers.

Obviously, if you do something illegal, profane or just plain idiotic and post it for the world to see, then there’s no question you’ll feel the repercussions later. But is the line between personal life and business life now blended so much that it’s becoming imaginary?

What should we be telling people looking to join us in the online universe? Is this like Big Brother watching everything we’re doing, only we’re some sort of insane masochists who volunteer to be watched?

How do we caution them about the downside without scaring them off? Should we be scaring them just enough that they think twice before posting something — or maybe even three times? Or does that defeat the whole point of the instant communication, instant reaction, instant gratification world of Web 2.0 that so many of us find attractive?

Please offer your opinions below — don’t make me write something provocative just to elicit a response. My boss might not like it.  😉