Watch What You Say

Social media is amazing. We can think something, type it, and just like that, broadcast it to the world. Amazing!

But this ability to communicate with everyone has a downside. All too often, people feel that because they can say something, they should. I can’t count the number of smart and interesting people I’ve stopped following on Twitter because they kept sending out political missives that I neither agreed with nor wanted to hear. The same goes for overly religious content. I’m on Twitter for social and business reasons and – unless religion or politics are your actual profession and unless that’s why I’m following you – I don’t care to hear your views. But it’s not just a case of annoying people. There are times when your views may actually hurt your career. The recruiter who is researching you before passing you on to the hiring manager may violently disagree with your opinions, and that may color his or her reaction to your candidacy.

The last time I said this on Twitter, one of my followers asked: “But aren’t you always saying it’s important to be authentic? My political views are very important to me so I’m not being authentic if I hide them.” It’s a good question – but I would ask this in return: Do you routinely walk around the supermarket announcing your political opinions at the top of your voice? How about when you first meet strangers in a networking meeting – do you let them know where you stand on health care reform even though they didn’t ask? I’m guessing that you’d feel it was inappropriate to share those views in that situation, and would wait until either there was an actual discussion, or you were with people you know.

If that’s the case, why would you feel the need to broadcast your opinions on the web? Not only is it inappropriate, but – unlike shouting in the supermarket – it’s also forever. Ten years from now, your words will still be sitting there in some Internet database just waiting to potentially trip up your career.

So yes, authenticity is important, but so are social niceties. Just as you wouldn’t loudly proclaim your opposition to illegal immigration at a Chamber of Commerce networking breakfast, you probably shouldn’t do it on Twitter.

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