In the social media age we desperately want to have our cake and eat it too. In fact, we would love to have everyone else’s cake as well but when it comes to the consequences, we scatter like cockroaches when the lights come on. We see all the time how people try to distance themselves from people and things so that they can have the perception of more freedom. How often do you see in a social media profile something to the effect of, “Thoughts posted here are my own” or “These are the personal thoughts and are not connected to anything else I do.”
Well, that may look nice and it might read OK but there could not be any bigger lie that is told in the social media world. There is no legal protection in these words that I am aware of and there is no greater false sense of security that people get from this completely useless attempt to act as if we are several personas that can be turned on and off at will.
Why am I writing about this? Well, earlier this week at Marketing Pilgrim, I wrote about an incident involving an employee of the PR firm Hill + Knowlton, where he essentially verbally abused a journalist on his Twitter account (that journalist was also a Hill + Knowlton client). His target called him out and asked if he liked his job with the esteemed PR firm. The result was a flowery language laced mea culpa by the perpetrator, a relative amount of humble pie consumed and many questions raised about just what responsibility an employee has to his company in the social space and vice versa.
The guy who created this mess stated that all of his thoughts on that Twitter account were his alone. Of course, all one needed to do was visit the published About.me page for this person to see that his definition of himself was pretty closely tied to his employment at Hill + Knowlton. It was not as if he was trying to hide who he was. No, in fact, by putting up the disclaimers he was trying to deny who he was. This is a common strategy in the online space that needs to go away, far away, right away.
Now, I will add that during the editing process of this post, Mike Moran pointed out to me that companies actually encourage their employees to use the “Thoughts are my own verbiage” on social media accounts but that information (you see I am not a corporate guy by any stretch so I don’t know these things) doesn’t change my mind one bit. In fact, it cements the thought for me that this kind of “policy” is weak and borderline stupid if there is any expectation of protection from the actions of an employee.
You see, you can say whatever you want to try to throw up barriers with regard to who you are in the online space but because we are so interconnected, the ability to turn no connection into a dotted-line connection into full fledged proof of a connection takes just a few easy steps. The irony is that those who want this separation of personal and professional are the ones that leave the bread crumbs leading to who they are and what they do. Sherlock Holmes would be out of business in the online space since it is so easy to connect the dots to peoples’ identities even when they try to separate them.
Let’s face it. Most of us are not lawyers and we do not check to see if our attempts to separate our lives are effective or just a show. It’s like the mystery of non-compete agreements. We act as if they will protect us but the reality is that unless we have deep pockets they mean little.
So let’s end this charade that we can keep our various identities free from each other and independent of impact. It’s a flawed idea that results in more mistakes than freedoms.
From now on anyone who uses that disclaimer or descriptor in their profile on any social media outlet will be suspect to me. It’s as if they are saying that they really don’t want to be responsible for what they are saying. They want to say what they want, when they want, about whomever they want in whatever way they want without the potential for repercussions. Well, folks, that’s just lame. if you are that spineless then maybe you need to find somewhere else to “share your thoughts” because the persona you are trying to protect isn’t welcome with me.