The Presentation of Self in Everyday Tweeting

Chris Hoff pointed to an interesting blog post from Peter Shankman. Someone* tweeted “True confession but I’m in one of those towns where I scratch my head and say ‘I would die if I had to live here!'”

Well it turns out that…

Not only did an employee find it, they were totally offended by it and responded to the agency person. The kicker is that they copied the FedEx Coporate Vice President, Vice President, Directors and all management of FedEx’s communication department AND the chain of command at (his employer).

Now, the twit who tweeted was clearly a twit, having mixed business and personal in a way that offended a major client. But let’s step back.

First, it’s important to remember that we all have personal lives, and it’s a good thing to be able to separate them from our work lives. If you work in IT and want to blog about gardening, no one is going to confuse things. Where it gets a little grey is when we’re deeply enthused about our work. I blog under my real name about topics that impact my employer. Not all–there are posts that haven’t seen the light of day because they’re too close. Sometimes, I cover work here when I’m really excited about it. My co-workers at Microsoft and my colleagues at Waggener Edstrom also understand that Emergent Chaos is separate, and have never asked me to post anything here.

Second, I think it’s important to generate a zone of professionalism where we it is seen as reasonable for seasoned professionals to comment on things which impact their employers without a presumption that they speak for their employer. This is not without challenges. If we’re naive about it, we create a zone of shills where people are paid to speak for their employers, and lie. At the same time, there are people with a degree of experience, maturity, and wisdom where you want them to be free to speak. Similarly, Microsoft’s willingness to accept my continued posting here without a lot of oversight made me happier in accepting their job. There are lots of companies which would have said “no way.”

Third, I think you need to telegraph where difference is. Here, it’s very clear that we speak for the President of the United States, not our employers. When I mention Microsoft, I try to be clear, although in reviewing posts, I seem to have fallen down a little. A post like “SDL Announcements” is pretty clearly me speaking about work:

I’m in Barcelona, where my employer has made three announcements about our Security Development Lifecycle, which you can read about here…I’m most excited about the public availability of the SDL Threat Modeling Tool. I’ve been working on this for the last 18 months…

(Speaking of clear, not all of the posts in the category are by me.)

The title is of course, a reference to the classic work of sociology, in which Goffman explains that we all present different facets of ourselves in different contexts. In blurring these contexts, services like Twitter and Facebook present a serious challenge to how we conceptualize and present ourselves.

One thought on “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Tweeting

  1. “how we present ourselves;” as in “on the computer, no one knows you’re a dog” unless you’re dumb enough to tell them.
    there are some people whose need to be acknowledged (even as a dog) overrides their self-protective mechanisms.

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