So an issue came up this weekend and it had to do with my usage of Twitter. In a nutshell what is twitter for, a social media where I can let my brain droppings be sprinkled on the information super highway as I speed along for who ever cares to listen, or is it professional networking tool used to strengthen my ties to the community at large involved in my work and other serious interests, and increase my knowledge of what is happening “out there”?
For me, up to now the answer to that question was “Yes”. I’m relatively new to twitter, only having been on it for a little more then a year. When I started I didn’t really see the point (and snidely snickered at twidiots who tweeted like Roland Hedley), but was assured it was a good way to stay connected to the larger tech community from someone I trusted, so I decided to give it a shot. What amazes me now is how much Twitter changed my internet habits. I realized just a couple of months ago that I had stopped checking my RSS feeds, if it wasn’t important enough for them to put it up on twitter (and I was following them) then it wasn’t worth my time to go “trolling” thru RSS feeds.
There were many other examples both subtle and big of how twitter has change my internet usage, and while I’m not up to Roland Hedley standards I do use it alot these days. So what was the issue? Well about 6 months ago while looking on the web I came across a twitter feed that was definitely NSFW but that I was interested in following, so I started up a new twitter account specifically geared toward, let us use the euphemism “Adult Oriented” content, where no one knew I was a dog.
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And no I am NOT going to tell you what my twitter handle is for that account. It’s still NSFW, and if you come across it, you won’t know its me and you will be trolling in the dark under-belly of the internet yourself of your own free will.
But on my original Twitter account @matthewhintzen I continued to post anything else, other then adult content, that popped into my mind. No Censor, no second guess, no look over, just spew my mental train of thought. In that time I have twice had someone point out to me content that I posted that might have been inappropriate for a “general” audience that includes business contacts. And it happened again this weekend, the third time someone had felt the necessity to point out that what I had tweeted could possibly be inappropriate given the fact that my audience for Twitter contained professional colleagues.
Of course like most humans I’m loath to admit I might be in the wrong so I bristled at the gentle rebuke, and took it much stronger then it was meant, but upon reflection (and after I had taken a deep breath, and remembered my point of view is not the empirical point of view) I found myself having to totally agree with the criticism. I had addressed the tweet (though not directly) to two of my co-workers, and thus while it was a restricted audience (wasn’t quite the same as shouting it out to a filled theatre) there was still the very likely possibility that someone in our profession might have caught the tweet. See this EXCELLENT article from Scott Hanselman’s blog about Twitter Overlapping setsto see how my tweet, since it was address to specific people, was not broadcast to the twitterverse at large. But this is not a Rational argument that I was in the “right”, it is a rationalization that allows me to pretend there isn’t a fundamental issue.
But as I just said, leaving aside the Rationalization aside, as I have come to use Twitter more and more as a mental stream of consciousness, I have been leaving the reservation of and allowing my personal life to infringe on my professional life. If I were just a contractor by myself, then that is my problem, but I currently work for someone else, and my tweets can reflect poorly or well on the company, which means other peoples lives and livelihoods could be affected.
So now we come to the rub. What is twitter for? I recognise that there is a portion of my life that I want to keep anonymous with plausible deniability, and I have an account set up for that part of me. But now while I have no problem saying the things I say on twitter and having people read them / pass judgement on me (fuck them if they can’t take a joke), that isn’t fair to my co-workers who might be affected, however indirectly by my tweets. So do I institute a Censor board, make a “5 minute rule” on any tweet (let it sit and review it for 5 minutes before I put it out), stop tweeting or do something else?
Giving up tweeting isn’t really an option, I like it too much, it’s part of my day now. But I REALLY hate the thought that now I have to “watch” what I say on twitter, cause that makes it a tool, a requirement, a “job” instead of a fun way to stay connected. 5 minute rule has the same problem. On the other hand I do understand that there are different parts of my life that I want to compartmentalize from each other (see the need I already except for my NSFW twitter account): and shouldn’t there be some sorta of separation between my private and professional life? While I have known people that have gotten in trouble for saying something bad about their employer, I’m a Free Speech Absolutist, and unless their job is as publicist for the company, what they say on their own time, on their own computer is their business. So I see only one way out of this quandary, a private and separate twitter account that can only be followed if I ALLOW someone to follow it. I can still spew, but only those people who I invite can follow.
Does that mean I will be tweeting much on my AtWork account, well honestly, no probably not. It will be for work related items, no snarky remarks, no “Hey here is my dog in the park” but also no “I think this person sucks…”.
So what will be my new “spew my thoughts” account be? well it will be @matthewhintzen… I’ve renamed the old @matthewhintzen to @mh_AtWork, and then reclaimed @matthewhintzen as my new private account. You are welcome to apply to follow me.