I almost stopped following two well-known professional educators today on Twitter. Why? Because of their frequent rants in recent days about personal dissatisfaction with their country’s political election results. Certainly they are entitled to their opinion and can tweet about it all they wish. I don’t question that. But I do question the wisdom of having one Twitter (or other social network) account where you frequently mix and match the content between one’s professional concerns and purely personal matters.
I’m not suggesting that one show no personality or humanness in one’s professional online presence. All the rules of authenticity and transparency that contribute to being real still apply whether one is posting to a professional or personal account. But don’t make people who follow you for your professional contributions often sift through the clutter of personal opinion about unrelated matters.
Confession: Until a couple of months ago I was guilty of doing the same. But it bugged me until I created a separate Twitter account and announced from each account the existence and purpose of each. Keeping them distinct has been a huge move in the right direction enabling me to focus on one or the other as needed.
There is a lot of noise across social networks and more media to consume than any one person can possibly take in, so if I choose to follow someone whose insights I value in a certain subject, I must choose wisely. I don’t want a steady stream of random thoughts and updates on what you’re doing. I don’t want too many posts to read daily even if they are all professional. I want at most a few posts from you daily and I want them to be substantive. If you mix in a little personality, creativity and humor, I’ll be even more satisfied.
This plea goes not just to the two respected men I nearly stopped following today, but to all who suspect they are inclined to do the same when political or other nonprofessional matters weigh heavy on their minds. Give your readers the respect and luxury of following your professional thought life without requiring them to filter out that which is unquestioningly irrelevant to that professional life, especially if you intend to post such things regularly.
I won’t pull the plug yet on the gentlemen whose numerous tweets, broad political generalizations and f-bombs I’ve seen in my Twitter stream in recent days. But my mouse pointer isn’t too far from the “unfollow” button. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt for now that they are unusually upset and slightly out of character for a time. But if the trend continues much longer, I’ll need to make a different choice to follow others whose content is more worthy of my limited time.
For the record, my professional Twitter identity is @JeffKRoss. I use it to focus on content related to social media, learning and community management. My personal Twitter identity is @JeffRossKY and anyone is welcome to follow me there as well, but know that you’re going to get purely personal content that has nothing to do with my professional interests. For the sake of accountability, you have my permission to call me out if I start to regularly cross the lines of business and pleasure in either account.
Update: May 14, 2011: Today I pulled the plug and removed from my Twitter social media and learning list one of the two men referenced above. I didn’t “unfollow” him completely, but if I can’t rely on the bulk of his posts being about his central professional interests, then I also can’t rely on them being relevant to my Social Media & Learning Daily that is generated from that list of contributors. That’s unfortunate and makes me a little sad, but I don’t follow learning professionals to hear their political and social activist views.