I was thinking today about how I appreciate people on the internet that are real.
I’m not saying ‘real’ in the ‘keeping it real’ sense. But, more of a keep it honest and no bullshit kind of way. I spend much of my time online and the people that I admire most are the ones that are able to run their business while being both professional and at the same time personal.
Being professional means that someone shares about the work they do or the projects they are passionate about, but each share doesn’t sound like it was cleared by PR and Legal first. No one enjoys listening to droll market-speak so I wouldn’t classify the buzz-word-mouth people as professional. I like hearing about people’s work, but also about their kids, travels, and books they are reading.
When I say personal I’m not referring to some cathartic method of over-sharing every insignificant detail of your life and looking for a sort of social validation by posting five different angles of each meal consumed to Instagram. When people share on the internet their personality comes through whether they intend for it to or not. It’s better to be honest about it and let people connect with you or move on.
Split Personalities Aren’t Real
I used to have two Twitter accounts – one for “business” and one for “personal”. The “business” account was intended to be for connecting with other developers, designers, business owners and web people. The “personal” account was for friends and family, most of whom I know and see in person. This was an exhausting situation. Whenever I had something to tweet, I had to go through the mental exercise of figuring out which audience it was for. I decided that instead of having this bifurcated stream of consciousness that I would reduce to just one account for all my sharing. If this resulted in friends going all possum eyed due to tech stuff or if web developers took offense to me sharing about Jesus or my kids funny statements that was going have to be alright.
I know some folks use a separate social network for this division of content, and Google+ even introduced the “Circles” feature to facilitate this (a feature Facebook then copied), but curating more than one social media account with any amount of thought is not something I’m interested in right now. Plus, cross-posting is the online equivalent of using a bull horn to have a close quarter conversation. Don’t do it.
An Email That Pushed Me To Be Real
Another incident that pushed me into the “be real” camp was that when I had the split Twitter accounts I had a client nudge me about a project. Nudge is the nice way of putting it when it was more like, “How can you be ignoring us and posting about doing other things! You are so unprofessional! GROWL! HISS! SCRATCH!!!” (ok, I added the animal sounds) My first internal reaction was indignation. “This is my personal account, go away!” Then I tried to see their side of the story. Although I was in no way ignoring them it was probably bad form to not set expectations or send an update and then carry on with social activities. After this incident I protected my tweets for a time, but then reverted since it is dumb to hide and tantamount to lying to say one thing but do another.
This was one reason I stopped doing client work. I’m not good at keeping up a front with clients appearing that I have a genuine interest in their project past the monetary reward. No client will come out and say they want you to be approving of their work, but they all want it and I do understand their point. I know some people enjoy and excel at client work, but being real with myself I had to acknowledge that I have a short attention span for it.
So now my recipe for being real is simple: Say what I think. Do what I love.