Cafe Witness

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

If YOU'RE Not the Boss of Me... Who Is?

Day 260: Don't Censor Me

Last week, blogger Joyce Dierschke asked a not-quite hypothetical question: Do you censor yourself online? Her example, of whether or not she should have re-posted a link to a (biased) political video that she personally found amusing, encapsulates a question we all ask ourselves on a regular basis:

When I'm online, am I allowed to be me?

The answers to the question are (if you ask me) far too complicated, because they can only be revealed by first determining who you are AND what you believe.

Some Things to Consider About Who "You" Are:

Are you a person or an employee?

Are you a brand or an individual?

Are you more concerned about being authentic or about getting paying work?

If a potential client decided they didn't want to work with you because of something you said or did online -- essentially, because of who you are (and the judgment they believe you display) -- would you regret the action in question?

Are you using the internet for communication or self-promotion?

Is your belief system permanent, or does it evolve over time?

Would the person you are today be embarrassed or ashamed of anything you did 10, 5 or even 2 years ago?

Are you steadily advancing toward a specific goal, or are you exploring for the sake of experience?

Do you expect greater integrity from others than you do from yourself?

Does transparency trump ethics?

Forget Big Brother -- EVERYONE'S Watching

Every decision we make online is a personal decision, undertaken privately (or so it seems) yet available publicly to anyone who knows how to look for it. Classic concepts of privacy, identity and "the self" are in flux now due to the web's multiple layers of "personal branding" and anonymity. And while Jonah may have believed that God could see him even when he was inside the whale, Jonah also never had to deal with recruiters scouring his friends' Facebook accounts for all his potentially incriminating kegstand photos.

So before you start censoring (or uncensoring) yourself online, perhaps you should first figure out who YOU are... and who you answer to.

Image by amanky.

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  • Yeah, the balance has to be struck between what you do for your own personal entertainment and whatever fake demeanor you need to project in order to get business.

    It's unfortunate, but just a fact that people's interactions with you are going to be colored by their perceptions of things about you that have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with business.

    So, essentially, we're all as authentic as we can afford to be. If you're independently wealthy, say whatever you want on the net, because it'll never affect your pocket anyway. If you're using a pen name and NOBODY knows it's you, go ahead and have a field day.

    However, if you're dependent on a company for your money, or even worse, your business is entirely based on people liking you and accepting your word for things then you're going to have to carefully hide what you really think and feel about things.

    You're right that everyone's watching. You don't know who your business associates are married to. You don't know who their best friends are. You don't know who you might offend that just might whisper in someone's ear who might whisper in someone else's ear and lose you that contract.

    So it basically comes down to which is more important to you as far as your internet interaction... Expressing yourself and enjoying yourself?.. or making sure that you're gaining more business than you're losing.

    By Blogger Bill Cammack, at 8:07 AM  

  • Bill,
    Everything has everything to do with business. Perception trumps reality every single time when you're talking about consumers. So businesspeople who are hiring have to take everything into consideration.

    Perfect example, we gave free coffee to the local Obama office because it was good business (we got a ton of customers coming over for more expensive drinks later). But we got tons of complaints from conservatives for doing so (their candidate didn't have a local office, or we would've done the same). Nobody actually asked who we voted for (not that we'd tell them).

    That's just the way it is.

    I know my nephews very well and they're hardworking kids. But to look at their facebook profiles, you'd think they were skid row bums, drunk all the time and writing about how fat chicks suck.

    Not an image one wants to project. You never know if the prospective client or head of HR lost his dad to alcoholism or if she is/was a fat chick.

    We also had someone talented who passed our first round of interviews, but we discovered a MySpace page where she publicly called her (then) employer's customers "assholes".

    She never got the second interview.

    By Blogger PaniniGuy, at 9:09 AM  

  • I absolutely censor myself online. It has nothing to do with business. It's really more about being hospitable, listening, and not just turning people off. Politically, for instance, I have a lost of friends who while not polar opposite are not that close to me.

    I could spend lots of time ranting about politics, for instance, but to what end? I'd rather engage, share, learn, even if what I learn includes that we are not the same. Someone else's perspective may be something new to me, or mine to them, but if I'm just beating the point of my position to death, you're going to stop listening; it won't be worth your time.

    Do you need to censor yourself? No. Should you? Well, it depends on your goals. If your goal is to get your position out there, it's something to consider. If you chase away the people you want to hear you, what good have you done? If you want to learn, as I do, likewise chasing people away accomplishes negative value.

    By Blogger Daria Brashear, at 9:55 AM  

  • Oof. I have a "lot" of friends, not "lost". Sigh.

    By Blogger Daria Brashear, at 3:36 PM  

  • @PaniniGuy: Excellent examples. :)

    I agree with you entirely. It's especially interesting to me that I was going to bring up a political instance, but didn't have one. Yours is perfect. It's a great business decision to familiarize people with the quality of your coffee and put you on their radar as far as patronizing your establishment because you "looked out" for them in the past. People are going to perceive you as empathizers, merely by association (and the fact that you didn't have the other team's office to do the same thing for). Very interesting. The only way around that is to not do it for the Obama team either, which tosses an excellent business opportunity for you into the wind.

    To clarify what I meant about "having absolutely nothing to do with business" is that if someone doesn't show or tell you something about themselves, your perception of them can't be affected by what you never saw or heard. For instance, if I have a Facebook account and hide my "relationship status", someone who doesn't know me and visits my page can't use that status to build a bias against me... simply because it's not there. If they like to work with married people only, they can't tell (from that hidden parameter) whether I'm married or not. If they think married people are BORING and only talk about their kids when they get together, they can't judge me that way either (again, on that particular hidden parameter).

    So, by making your relationship status visible on Facebook, you open yourself up to fans and haters in the same way that giving coffee to the Obama team does.

    The larger point I was trying to make is that this topic depends on what your life revolves around. If your live revolves around your business, live that way. If, OTOH, your life revolves around enjoying yourself, that might mean you have to sacrifice some business in order to live the life you desire.

    To use your nephews as an example, what's perceived by you as them being "skid row bums and not into fat chicks" is also perceived by guys who like to drink and 'get girls' as your nephews doing the same thing they do (or, in many cases, that they WISH they could do), but aren't interested in posting or are potentially scared to post on the internet. We saw how this backfired on the speechwriter that was partying with the cardboard Hillary Clinton. My point, however, is that if you'd rather drink brews, chase chicks and flaunt your social life on the internet than make sure you hide everything just so more people give you money (which you're going to spend on alcohol and girls anyway), that's a legitimate choice.

    Most people would disagree with this choice, as you do, because most people are TOAST if their current format of making money gets shut down. We're seeing this across the country with all these layoffs. Therefore, whether they care about business first and foremost or not, they're more likely to self-censor and take their ways of being underground. You're still hiring the same people... You just don't know it.

    By Blogger Bill Cammack, at 7:27 PM  

  • I've been thinking about this stuff a lot lately. My conclusion is a version of yours. I'd say, yes, everyone's watching. But do not forget Big Brother. Big Brother is here and we are all it. Micropower (via Foucault) at its new frontier.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:15 AM  

  • Bill: I think a lot of people -- especially freelancers -- have trouble deciding whether their lives revolve around their jobs or themselves, which is where all of these identity issues come from. Even one iota of "personality" can be too much for some potential employers, whereas other people get work BECAUSE of their personalities.

    So maybe an additional spoke off this conversation wheel is: how much of your business is driven by *what you do*, and how much of your business is driven by *who you are*?

    Peter: Yes, that's true -- we're ALL Big Brother now, because the perceived prestige of "breaking" a news story is suddenly available to individuals, rather than *just* the news agencies. Hence, we're all more than willing to "report" on each other (and call each other out) in order to increase our own status among our followers.

    But that cuts both ways. Because the same tools are available to everyone (more or less), we can be a bit more democratic about keeping each other honest, rather than relying on that power to be held by a minority of shadowy individuals.

    By Blogger Justin Kownacki, at 11:29 AM  

  • it is a great and representative picture of the situation. Great job with it.

    By Anonymous Generic Cialis, at 3:40 PM  

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