Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Wishful Thinking

Ryan Healy engages in a bit of wishful thinking in a post on Brazen Careerist. (He's a guest commentator there, but also publishes his own blog, Employee Evolution, which has the tag line "The Voice of Millennials at Work.") He says, basically, that worries about posting embarrassing photos on sites like MySpace or Facebook are overblown:

Social networking sites are blurring the lines between personal and professional life. There is no reason these lines should not be blurred. Most young people lead very healthy social lives, and because of these websites much of our social lives are online. When you live your personal/social life online there is no escaping who you are and what you do. It may be scary to people not accustomed to the openness of the Internet, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s a refreshing. Why should I pretend to be one person for eight hours a day and someone else entirely for the rest?

I agree with Ryan more often than not. But, Boomer that I am, I found this particular essay a bit naïve. I mean it would be nice if we didn't have to worry about how we present ourselves to the world - in or out of work - but at the end of the day, we do. It's not an issue that's limited to the Web. We have to think about how we're perceived by people we talk to at meetings, by phone, by video conference and by instant message. I don't think people should pretend to be someone they're not, but you have to be aware that your fascination with mud wrestling may not be as funny to some people in your office as it is to you.

It’s absurd to pretend that everyone at work is a saint. It’s just not true. What’s the big deal if our bosses know what we did on Saturday night or what we did in college for that matter?

It depends on who your boss is, for one thing. And it depends on what you did. There are people out there - and I don't think they're all even in their 40s - who are going to judge you by how you portray yourself. When you decide to post photos of yourself on MySpace, you're saying you're proud of them. Would you frame a photograph of yourself passed out on New Jersey Transit and put it on your desk? Maybe that's the kind of test we should apply to what we put on MySpace.

I urge everyone: Let’s leave all of our pictures up on whatever social networking sites we use. What we do on the weekends is just as much apart of our lives as our day jobs. Don’t be afraid of your boss seeing a risqué photo of you and don’t be afraid to talk a little business at the bar. The sooner we get past this personal and professional juggling act, the sooner we can see real change in the workplace.

I suppose Ryan might to trying to make a point about employers loosening up. It's not easy to change a culture, after all. But as you re-live that fetish party, at least do it with your eyes open. Your boss, your clients may see those photos and never say a word - but if they've seen the photos, they've made a judgment about you and about how much trust they're going to give you.

Twentysomething: Raunchy old photos will be part of the revolution [Brazen Careerist]

No comments: