Yet, I have to confess something…
I wonder if the more ubiquitous social media becomes, the harder is to bear the burden of being authentic IRL (in real life)?
Because, with increasing frequency, you’re not the only person reporting on your every move anymore. When I’m at an event, a gathering, meeting or just having lunch, I’ve come to learn that every word out of my mouth is fair game for social media attribution and distribution. Maybe by the person on the other side of the conversation. Maybe by the person at the table behind me. Or, just a passerby.
And, that freaks me out a bit. Because when I put the message out there, I give it context.
But, when others translate it to social media, especially media that only allows for cherry-picked snippets…who knows?
This used to happen when I was in mainstream media on a fairly regular basis. I’d be interviewed for 30 minutes, then a few sentences or seconds would make it into the interview or segment. I learned, very quickly, how easily it is to be misquoted or have a snippet of a thought quoted out of context, with the meaning dramatically altered.
So, I trained myself to be increasingly politic when doing media interviews.
I was what I’d call cautiously authentic. Tactically transparent.
I said what was on my mind, but always added in a few beats before my thoughts left my mouth to try to frame it in a way that closed as many doors as possible to misquoting and mis-contextualizing. In fact, I began to encourage almost all media, save live TV or radio, do interviews by email, so I could craft and frame the message exactly as I wanted it to appear…and create a paper trail of the full conversation.
In my early days of blogging, I didn’t feel this same need to live-edit my speech.
There was a sense of freedom, of respect, of the desire to want to treat each other right. And, without the time or space limitations of traditional media, there was the ability to include the entire conversation. To keep the context in.
But, I wonder if that’s changed over the last few years, fueled by:
- (1) the mass-adoption of social and communications tools that force aggressive truncation of messages, like twitter, texting, wall updates and beyond,
- (2) the near-pervasive expectation that not only anything you share in social media, but anything you say or do in person, even in real-life public or private, is fair game for publication and distribution,
- (3) a widespread sense of a lack of the need to provide context, edit, vet information or be accountable, and.
- (4) mobile access to tools that make sharing information as easy as hitting a few buttons on your cellphone.
I was recently at a conference and said something to a friend that, without knowing our relationship, could easily have been taken as biting or even a bit warped. But, between us, we were just messing around, building on a history we had, it was like a series of inside jokes. Someone behind us, though, overheard the exchange then turned and said, “dude, that’s going on twitter.”
I’m totally cool having what I said shared, as long as it’s framed in the nature of my relationship with the other person and the broader context of the joking conversation. Sadly, the chance of that happening in 140 characters is near zilch.
And, that realization has led most folks to now agree that when it comes to social media, you’ve got to be willing to lose control over your message. But, the corollary to that is, you’ve also got to be willing to exert more control over how that message leaves your mouth to give it the best chance of being framed and shared in the way that fully expresses your intent…even if your preference is that it not be shared at all.
Which means I’m left back in my days of live-censoring my conversations, for fear of being miscontextualized, but this time, it’s not just about my conversation with a single reporter…
It’s about every word out of my mouth, because EVERYONE’S now a reporter!
This growing knowledge has slowly drawn me from being fairly free, transparent and authentic with how interact not only online, but out in public or on the phone and in email to being more cautiously authentic. Tactically transparent. It’s led me to include the line, “The content of this e-mail is off the record, unless agreed otherwise” at the end of every email I send.
And it’s set that line up as an automatic cognitive filter in my conversations. Yes, even friendly, face-to-face conversations.
Because, you just don’t how, when, where or why snippets might end up online and out of context.
So, in this odd way, I’ve been feeling a growing sense that the mass adoption of social reporting technology is increasingly encouraging me to stifle, rather than embrace a sense of complete authenticity.
Not because I have major skeletons in my closet that are freaking me out (note to self, buy more nails for that closet!). But, because, it’s become so much easier to become a target of misattribution, misquoting and mis-contextualizing when every person in every direction is potentially reporting on your every word and move (and, trust me, I’m really not that interesting).
Especially when the ADDention span and character limits of the medium increasingly encourage speed over depth and breath.
And, yes, I get that I now also have my own bully pulpit upon which I can fire back.
But, honestly…that’s just not how I want to spend my time.
Curious, anybody else feeling this?
Or, is it all in my head?
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