This morning I tweeted a photograph of an envelope, in which I was returning the free copy of The Sun newspaper that has dropped through my letter box, alongside the letterboxes millions of people in last few days.
When I made an off-the-cuff decision to post that photo, I was drawing on a comment made by someone about returning theirs the night before – my head was in social/personal mode. I did a quick work/professional mode scan, got a green light, and pressed the ‘send’ button.
I do generally steer clear of politics on Twitter and tend to save ranting and hyperbole for my personal Facebook page – where the biggest consequence is my dad occasionally telling me off. But, I detest quite a few things associated with The Sun, not least the topless images of women, or ‘girls’ as The Sun prefers to call them on their page 3. I personally think it’s ok to have views about such things and remain professional – I’d happily share and debate them with my colleagues at work.
However, it was only as I reached the post box that I remembered that this week I emailed a Sun editor to request an interview as part of my PhD research. In choosing to tweet that photo, and make a statement about my personal/political views, I had scanned for professional but completely forgotten to do the same for research – at that particular moment it was outside of my conscious awareness. In my email to the editor I had given my blog and Twitter details, a modern form of verification, and I guess I’ve compromised any chance of getting that interview now. Oh well…
If I had got that interview I would probably chosen not to share my views about the newspaper to the editor. I would have traded this for the prize of enhancing my research with the perspective of a mainstream media organisation about representation of mental health in the press. I guess most of us make these sorts of small decisions and compromises all the time in our day to day working lives.
The reason I’m posting about such a tiny incident, is that it caused me to reflect on what a subtle and complex process maintaining a personal/professional equilibrium can be online. It is hard to have all the possible consequences of something we choose to share in social media spaces held in our heads all the time. This is why every so often people who seem sensible and reasonable get caught out.
Finally, if did occur to me to delete the tweet but that seemed like the scaredy-cat thing to do. Instead I’m sticking with my convictions and blogging about it as a note to self, and possibly others, about the complexities of self-mediation online. It easy to talk about the importance of personal and professional identity on social media, and equally easy to put it as an imperative in formal guidance; it is a far more subtle process to enact this consistently in everyday life.