What image do you project?
I’m going to take a wild guess here and speculate that the ‘real’ you and the ‘online’ you are a bit different.
In person, my outwardly controlled yet chatty and smiley persona is a fabulous mask for the internal conflict I’m experiencing inside. I’m a duck – everything looks serene on the surface but I’m actually flapping wildly under the water.
Online I’m a bit more relaxed. On occasion, too relaxed. I’ve deleted tweets, rewritten blog posts and regretted Facebook status updates. It’s easy to forget that no matter how large or small your ‘reach’ is someone somewhere will read what you write.
If you’re using social media in a professional capacity it’s really important to think about the image you project. A very good friend of mine recently told me, emboldened by a glass or two of an excellent Sauvignon Blanc, that I came across as ‘Quite cross’ on Twitter. They knew that this wasn’t the ‘real’ me and (I think) thought it was a shame as I’m not quite as relentlessly grumpy in real life.
I reflected on the conversation afterwards and concluded that they might be right…to a point. It depends how closely you follow someone and whether you’re a workplace tweeter or a 24/7 tweeter. I suspect that they don’t read my commentary on The Apprentice or my excitement about weekend visits to the zoo. I’d like to think that my overall ‘package’ of tweets/updates falls into the sometimes curmudgeonly, mostly positive, occasionally whimsical and that you get a rounded picture of me as both a professional and as a person.
Sometimes I see other people’s tweets or status updates and roll my eyes and/or sigh a bit. I’m a contrary soul because relentless ‘YEAH YEAH I’M HAPPY THE WORLD IS BRILLIANT AND I’M THE BEST PERSON IN IT. I’M THE SAVIOUR OF EVERYTHING! HI-FIVE ME!’ stuff drives me a bit nuts but equally the constant ‘Woe is me, the world owes me a living, everyone is out to get me, I’m suffering.’ comments are…ill-advised. The relentlessly upbeat stuff makes everyone hate you and the Eeyore stuff leads to compassion fatigue.
Don’t forget that past, present and future employers can read what you write. The person you disliked in that conference round-table might be the person you end up sitting next to for three years in your next job, so don’t slag them off online. People come back from maternity leave. No-one likes a show-off. Equally, we might laugh at Victor Meldrew but would we want to live next door to him?
I’m not suggesting for a second that you create an entirely separate online persona for the perfect professional inside you. You’ll only get found out in the end. In any case, the perfect professional doesn’t exist. They’d be terribly dull, I suspect. The duck principle isn’t a bad one – project calm confidence on the surface and keep the internal conflict locked away.
Or start writing a blog.