No, I don’t really think any of y’all post photos of yourselves sans clothing. Really. I don’t even want to imagine that. I’m really happy that I seem to know no one who does that, oh, yes, indeed I am.
But I do periodically become alarmed and/or dismayed by some of the things I find there, like the ill-advised party photos posted by some of my younger relatives, shots they find hilariously amusing but that will some day surely come back to haunt them in, you know, a divorce proceeding or in trying to obtain a high-level government security clearance. Because some things just never go away, you know?
But this isn’t about youthful folly or x-rated photos. This is about the kinds of things you probably don’t think twice about posting–the updates and comments that are perfectly innocuous but are maybe telling people things about you that you might rather not. Sure, some people keep their personal lives and their professional lives separate, with a fan page for the latter and limited access to the former. Others of us, though, realized long ago that keeping up with just one identity on Facebook is more than enough work, and we’ve consolidated everything. Sometimes this works splendidly, and sometimes it’s a little rough around the edges.
What I’ve noticed is that there’s sometimes some drama and often quite a bit of kvetching and venting. It’s hugely cathartic: you have a hideous run of bad luck, you vent to your FB friends, you get lots of encouraging comments assuring you that you’re fabulous and are bound to have better luck really soon.
Here’s something to think about, though. Let’s say you’re having a spate of bad health. Nothing major, just colds and maybe some mysterious stuff that’s sending you for various medical tests, and so a good percentage of your recent updates are about how lousy you feel. Or maybe you’re feeling overwhelmed by home repairs and tax preparation and are doing a fair bit of posting about how stressed you are. You get a lot of supportive feedback, and it feels good. There’s no reason not to share bits of your life, right? But think about FB and how it’s used, about how if you have rather a lot of connections, there’s probably someone there who’s an editor or a gallery owner or an agent or a rep of some kind. Perhaps they, like me, use FB to see what’s new with you. When I find an artist I’m/we’re interested in, I check their website and their blog, and then I check them out on FB. Sometimes we’re already connected, and sometimes they have a fan page, and sometimes I send a friend request. Then I look to see what photos they’ve posted recently, see if they’ve got a show coming up, new gallery representation, workshops they’re offering. Updating the website is often way down on the list of Things I’ve Got Time To Do, so blogs and FB are the best way to see what new stuff people are sharing–often really exciting stuff they haven’t had time to get up on their website yet.
But what if the status updates are mostly whining about how there’s no time and you’ve got all these deadlines and you’re stressed out? Maybe people see those and think, “Wow. This doesn’t seem like a good time for her; maybe I’ll check back in six months.” Because even though it might seem unfair, most of us are going to steer clear of drama. If you’re talking about how stressed you are, it’s kind of a red flag that this might not be the best time to ask for anything that requires commitment and deadlines. The signals are saying you’re overwhelmed and can’t deal with anything else, never mind that it might be an opportunity you’ve been wishing for. We hope we’ll remember to check back in a couple months to see if things have smoothed out for you, but In Real Life that doesn’t always happen.
So take a minute and think about how you’re using Facebook–and all your social media–and what message you’re sending out there. Maybe you’ll want to think about tweaking it a little to make it better serve the work you do.
For more information about using social media to your benefit in your professional life, check out Blogging for Creatives by Robin Houghton.
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