Eric's Technical Outlet

Learning the hard way so you don't have to

No, I Will Not Be Your Friend

It’s not personal. In fact, that’s the point. But, it’s not exactly true, either. You’re going to have to click “Read More” to get the explanation for that.

It’s pretty simple, really. I’m not saying we can’t get along. I’m not saying that if we happen to be at some tech event simultaneously that I won’t be down at the bar for some good socializing afterward. I’m saying that I have two separate online existences: my private persona and my public persona. My private persona is on Facebook and has a few e-mail accounts; some from my ISP, some leftover from free services. I even still have an old @excite.com account that I just can’t seem to let die. I’m on IM in a few places, too. I actually have a low 6-digit ICQ number, which is probably a little impressive to those who are old enough to not only remember what ICQ is but when it was still cool to use it (as in, when people were there, not just Russian spambots). But, you’re not going to see any of those things here.

How many stories have you read about somebody getting fired (or worse) because of a Facebook post? Why does that happen? Look at any of the friends lists for those individuals, and you’re going to find bosses, coworkers, and friends of people in those categories. Oops! That could probably be me. I have opinions about things. Very strong opinions, usually. I have opinions on everything. I have opinions about things I haven’t even heard of yet. And sometimes, I get on Facebook and, at a corrected typing speed of approximately ninety words per minute, the language generator in my brain can easily get me all the way through submission of a bad status update long before my mental filters have reached a verdict on whether saying such a thing in a semi-public location is really a good idea. How do I control it? I don’t. That’s where my private persona goes to say whatever I feel like saying. Instead of trying to control my irreverent nature, I control my friends list. Tightly. Very tightly, actually. The people on it realize the sort of things I’m likely to say and like it, ignore it, or hide me.

Then, there’s my public persona. That’s the one you see here (well, usually on Altaro, in actuality). I’m on LinkedIn. I’m even on Twitter… sort of. I read tweets every couple of months and tweet even less often. You’re free to follow me if you like (@EricSiron), but, well, I’m pretty quiet. If you see a tweet from me, it was probably auto-generated from something else.

See the difference between the public persona and the private one? All the various ways I interact with the public and my industry relations are all grouped together and shared. I also have a dedicated e-mail account for that persona that I’d share if it wouldn’t instantly turn into a spam bucket. In contrast, all my private information is not here and will never be here.

Even if I were a little less brash, I’d still think this persona separation is a good idea. It’s not like I’m going off on long, evil, profanity-laden rants, I don’t trash-talk anyone that can’t see or respond to me, and as far as I know, I’m not racist, sexist, or any other bad -ist. I know some people feel the need to “vent” occasionally, but I find that venting doesn’t actually make you feel better. Venting only leads to more venting which just makes you an angry person that will eventually vent in an inappropriate location and invite bad things to happen to you. I don’t vent, I just… comment. I’m not a different person there, I’m just more relaxed. I know that I’ve lowered my opinion of professionals I had respect for because they made a comment I disagreed with, even though the comments weren’t related to their profession. That means it can happen to me too. I want my public persona to be judged by my professional skills, not my personal attitudes and beliefs. So, here, and in all my public persona locations, I’m always professional, level-headed, and cautious. For that persona, I often type what I want to say in an e-mail with no one in the To: line or in Word or Notepad, just to be sure that I can read it over several times and that there will be no accidental submitting.

If you’re not doing this, I suggest that you do. You might be amazed at how much closer you can get to that mythical “work/life balance”.

If you happen to discover me in my “natural” online environment and I decline or ignore your requests to be a “Friend”, don’t take it as a personal affront. It’s just not how I “connect” to professional contacts.

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