With the continuing march of social media there’s a growing assumption that whatever you’re up to, you need to broadcast it to the world at large. It’s certainly true that some of the resulting insights into people’s lives are truly fascinating (I was subscribed to 50 rss feeds at the last count, checking for updates daily), and the emergence of blogs and news aggregators mean that I’m able to keep abreast of pretty much any given subject more effectively than ever before. What has been happening for a good while though is that companies are noticing this and encouraging their staff to broadcast on their behalf. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing inherently bad in this and, indeed, a large number of the blogs I’m subscribed to are individuals writing about the cool stuff they’re doing at work. The difficulty comes in keeping work and personal lives distinct. This tension has been around forever (a colleague once got in to a little hot water at work over a letter published in The Times), but the ease by which search engines are able to pull published content of all types together makes the risk of associating personal views with that of the company you work for much greater.
I have been very careful with this blog to avoid mentioning my employer or writing about topics that could be seen as sensitive but I have not gone out of my way to anonymise it either. It’s under my own name and, for the sake of a couple of minutes armed with your search engine of choice, you could work out who I work for with minimal effort. Whilst at the moment it’s OK to write things like “crap day today, got nothing done” (and who doesn’t have the odd day like that?), once I’m also a public voice for my employer this will reflect badly not only on the company but also on me as an employee.
An amusing consequence of these professional demands encroaching on our social media is that it could make us more sociable again. It will no longer be OK to post online daily thoughts like “grr, my boss is being unreasonable” or “bored - is it Friday yet?” so instead we will have to meet up with friends and share our lives in person. Who fancies a pint?