So, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about social media, non-personal communications, and the rise of passive aggressiveness as a result.
Personally, a combination of shifting societal norms and my career objectives have caused me to make a conscious choice to live my life on fairly public terms. No matter how technology changes our world in the future, I expect that my life will remain under public scrutiny from here on out. That’s not to say that I don’t keep some things private – I’m actually an intensely private person who chooses to open up specific portions of my life to the public eye.
In the past year or so, what I’ve been saying has really caught on, and I have thousands of supporters, detractors, friends, family, and casual followers who watch and respond to a lot of what I do. The level of scrutiny I receive, in bites of 140 characters, astounds me, and is something I am still trying to figure out how to deal with. Looking at my life and career, I expect it will only get more intense from here, so I choose to embrace it.
Despite what it may look like, my tweets are a very small slice of my life and thoughts on any given day. There are days, like yesterday, where there is SO much more I want to say, but I hold back 90% of it. I keep things ambiguous while I feel around for the border of what I want public and what I want private in my life.
Sometimes that gets mistaken for passive aggressiveness, but for the most part it’s not. I have my petty moments – too many of them, I’m sure. I’m human and sometimes stuff sucks. There was a time a few years ago when I could vent and talk more freely on Twitter, because for the most part it was a few dozen friends and acquaintances who’d see it. Definitely no longer the case.
I actually spend a fair amount of time thinking about how we communicate with each other online and how social norms are shifting as a result. So when I tweet something without a name attached, or vaguely referencing a situation, I’m generally trying to protect the innocent (or guilty) from the same level of scrutiny I’ve chosen for myself. Anything less would be terribly unfair to people I value.
People can be very nasty when they’re halfway across the country shouting in 140 characters. Plus, I’m sort of proud to say that the relationships I’ve developed online are really deep, and my Twitter peeps are really protective of me. These folks will go to bat for me in a split second. If you’ve not proactively chosen that for yourself, it’s a shock. Heck, it’s a shock to me even though I’ve learned how to deal with it.
As a result, I have a flexible set of rules that I try to follow:
- I won’t ever try to ruin whatever enjoyment/benefit I think you’re getting out of Twitter. For most people that means talking with a small bunch of friends, not thousands of people from around the world. I won’t RT or call you out on your political views or other things if I don’t think you want hundreds of strangers replying to you as a result. (Not that that always happens, but it’s really possible.)
- If you’ve done me wrong personally or professionally and I’m upset about it, I won’t call you out on it publicly. That’d be rude. I may want to talk about it with friends, and that’s tougher when 3,000 people are watching, but I’m not trying to passively aggressively send a message.
- When I have something to say, I generally say it directly, though that doesn’t mean I don’t have other thoughts about it. I don’t always win because of it, and that sucks, but it’s the other half of the tradeoff I have to make to not seem like a passive aggressive whiner. Generally I’m better off for it.
Yes, this post was inspired by a specific situation with a guy (what else is new!), but the “vague tweet” situation is something that has been happening to me with greater frequency, and I’ve been wanting to explore and clarify this part of communications for a bit now.