My Social Media Thinking
I consciously worked on my 'work ethic', shedding some practices which I may have picked up early in my working life in the quest of becoming a better professional. Indeed, I did find it a never-ending process, I continuously discover things that I can do better, and have now come to accept that I may never be perfect, but have to keep on trying.
An important part of my work ethic, I consider, is my Social Media ethic, because social media is important, for my work and my professional identity. It seems almost all media that I use have a social aspect. Even, book-reading, my intensely personal experience of all media consumptions, always had book-clubs (one that I intended to join, but got rebuffed for Marxian reasons - I didn't want to join a club which will take me as a member) and now have trendier cousins like Librarything , which I use and participate in. But, going beyond hobbies, social media is everywhere at work.
I spend a lot of time on social media, and have to make decisions on what I can or can not do on social media space. For example, I have decided to accept all invitations sent to me on Linkedin, except those which come without personal names. I have never connected to people with names like 'All Your SEO Solutions' because they are not, in my definition, people. On the other hand, I don't usually connect with people on Facebook unless they are friends, though I used a somewhat loose definition of the term in the past. These days, I am far more observant and would usually ignore invitations sent to me on Facebook by people I don't know that well. And, I am yet to figure out what to do with Google Plus.
Then, indeed, there is this blog. I have been writing it for six years now, and it has evolved quite a bit. What started as a private experiment of writing 'morning pages', for practise of writing, has eventually evolved into my scrapbook of ideas, random thoughts, reflections and opinions. But, while this blog was a personal experiment, this was also public - and I had to work out what I do or say in this blog. For example, I decided to publish all comments, however unflattering, without any moderation at all time. At the same time, I kept the comment moderation active to filter out spam, as I get a lot of it these days. However, I am still struggling with what to do with replies: I usually reply to comments, but not to all of them. I try to, but sometimes my eagerness to publish comments the moment I see it (mostly on my smartphone) means that I don't end up responding to it immediately. And, eventually, I may end up missing on some replies: This is indeed blasphemy in social media terms, and will remain at the top of my list of New Year resolutions this time.
Also, there is the question of what not to write on this blog. I generally avoid names of people, and specifics like this, even when what I say is good. I do this to keep it consistent with the spirit of reflection - names don't matter, actions do - and also to avoid hurting anyone. On the other hand, I write about my personal life and politics, things that I wouldn't usually touch in a face-to-face conversation. So, the blog is more personal yet impersonal at the same time, and I keep on balancing this all the time as I write the blog.
Inevitably, one also has to make decisions about photos or videos. Despite my photography hobby, I far so far kept my photos out of social media. The reason is just the opposite of my writing: I thought they are personal. There are other people in it, inevitably. They are different from nameless reflections, where people are usually ideas. In the photo or video, they are people, with real identities. So, despite my huge photo folders on my computer hard disk, I am usually reticent to put them up on Facebook, and despite my endless hours on YouTube as a consumer - of professional videos mostly - I am not an active contributor.
It is also interesting to follow the proliferation of special purpose groups. I am a member of some of them: Academia for academic work and Internations to connect with other expats in London, and the other me-too networks, like Ecademy, and others. However, my usage is primarily on Linkedin and Facebook, and this blog, with some email exchanges with fellow Internation members, and only occasionally with people from other networks. If ever I come to that, I shall spend time creating a social media portfolio, with my blog as the main vehicle of self-expression, with Facebook with friending and Linkedin for business, Academia to pursue and project my professional interests, Librarything for my book-reading and Flickr for my photography (as and when I feel comfortable) and may be YouTube for my videos, Internations for meeting other expats - it already looks like a parade of my identities - and finally a network, yet unknown, to connect with other Indians. This last bit is surely missing: I loved Rediff connexions, but somehow Rediff didn't, and what a wasted opportunity that was. I have tried various other networks with mostly Indian members, Orkut (before it got overwhelmed by Facebook) and TooStep, an urban chick talk shop which I found too pretentious. I am sure there is a gap in the market for an Indian social network of some kind.
In summary, a significant part of my life is played on social media, and it is not just another thing one has to manage, but it is also one of the key influences on what I am and what I am known to be. It is important to have some kind of strategy, indeed a portfolio, to engage in social media. There are various considerations, some legal, but most moral and ethical, that one has to take into account. I would claim that social media strategies today are one of the most important ingredients in a professional's portfolio. I have already heard the term - Media Coach - and I am sure they would become commonplace soon. In a way, I am dreading the day when I get an invite on Linkedin from 'Your very personal Media Coach".