How much do you share?

Over the last week I’ve been thinking a lot about sharing. Facebook is changing its settings to include the new Timeline that previously was only available to users that opted in (I opted in). Then today I read this piece in The Guardian by Charlie Brooker about networks like FB and Spotify sharing your every move. Netflix does the same (seriously, how many of you are using Netflix to watch really rubbish rom-coms, I know, I can see what you’ve watched).

It’s funny that we use social networks in order to share our own ideas and views but don’t like it when a separate company hastens the process along. I’m more than happy to tweet that I watched a Morgan Freeman double bill on Saturday (Along Came a Spider and Seven, since you ask) but would I be happy with Netflix telling you all that?

And then the timeline. Apparently, and I read this in the Mail so accuracy might be a bit skewiff, but one in ten Facebook users are against it. The worry is that a post they uploaded in 2006 or 2007 might embarrass them now.

A couple of things worry me about this. First of all it’s worrying that people abdicate responsibility to a piece of software they don’t fully understand. The Facebook Timeline, as I see it, makes the site a little bit more blog-inspired but each to their own. Yesterday a chap gave an interview to the Sunday Times about how he thought the new timeline might put prospective employers off him. He was worried about university pictures. Not enough to stop a national newspaper printing them. Mate, a prospective boss wouldn’t be put off by your university escapades. he might be by the fact that when you’re cheesed off you go straight to the papers, though. Just a thought.

If there are people you don’t want to read your updates then change your privacy settings. I recently gave a lecture at Hope University to students wanting a career in the media. I asked how many were worried a future employer would read their Facebook page and be put off. The majority raised their hands. I asked how many had limited their privacy settings, of images, posts etc to a certain group or groups. None of them. I laugh heartily along with everyone else on Fail-Blog when you see some of the daft things people post and the employers who get a little annoyed when they read the comment from the staffer who is wiling away the afternoon online and decides to post exactly what they think of their boss. Yet, to be brutally honest, if you are posting something about your work in a public forum and you know your boss might see it then you deserve to get sacked, for stupidity if nothing else.

It might have been when it first started but social networking isn’t screaming into the void. People should tweet like somebody is reading. Abrogating all responsibility for the effect a tweet, post or LinkedIn update could have is thoughtless and a little mindless. More and more people are finding this out. Obviously there is a PR issue. People need to think about what they are doing to their company’s brand, as well as their own. I’m sorry, you may hate to hear me say it, but one of the things social networks have done is to make us all carefully crafted (or not so carefully crafted) brands and identities. We choose how we want to be portrayed. Problem is, some don’t give as much choice as they should. The amount of hate and vitriol on Twitter especially is making a lot of people want to delete their account permanently. Someone I know who appears as an industry expert on Sky TV gets vicious tweets and comments. There has to be a sense of responsibility. Free speech doesn’t mean we’re free to say whatever we want. It never has done. True freedom means never take anyone else’s considerations into account. Who wants that?

So top tips, how much should you share:

  • If you don’t want your boss to scroll through your Facebook account don’t let him. Or have one account for private and one for work. You’re not the same person in the office as you are at home, nor should you be. Keep your online identities distinct as well.
  • You’re not supposed to read through people’s social network accounts before an interview. But if you post anything you don’t want a prospective boss to see research privacy settings. The ever wonderful has this post about Facebook Privacy¬†
  • Don’t feed the trolls.
  • Don’t tweet when you’re angry. Seriously. Don’t. If you have ever sent a text in a rage and then regretted it it will only be the same but worse.
  • If you’re a boss then teach your staff about what you expect of them in terms of social media. When I started at the BBC my then news editor told me if I was doing an interview or chatting to someone I could well be the first person they had met from the BBC. I was the face of that organisation. I have been put off by companies and stores because I’ve read updates from friends and acquaintances and seen the inside track. It might not be true but it’s like word of mouth endorsement, or whatever the opposite of endorsement is. Word of mouth denouncement I suppose.
  • While you’re at it draft a social media policy detailing usage. Decide what you think is OK and then discuss it with your staff. I don’t think dictats work, they only irritate people.
  • You’re not screaming into a void. If you need to scream into a void then perhaps you should move away from a social network.
  • The clue is in the title. It’s a social network. Be social. It’s not just a mechanism for you to spout your daily thoughts from what kind of bagel is best to how rubbish the woman from accounting’s blouse is. No one cares.



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