I believe that under the right parameters, social media has a spot in the workplace, especially for folks in technology related fields and positions. One of the greatest assets at my job is that fact that if I am stuck on building a piece of code or trying to find documentation on a very old piece of equipment that I am trying to integrate into our network, I am able to reach out to others that have had the same kind of experience, whether it be through a Google search or reaching out on Twitter or a conversation in an IRC chat with geeks like me. This is one of many reasons that I have my Twitter account. I know that there are folks that like to use Twitter as an “enhanced chat room” where they publicly trade quips back and forth and occasional post photos of various parts, and that’s fine, but my personal work ethic dictates that that sort of interaction needs to be confined to off hours. It’s just the way I roll.
One other thing that I enjoy about Twitter (which is my favorite of the big, primarily word-based social networks), is that if you follow the right people, you’ll learn of news pretty quickly. I turn to Twitter before anywhere else when I hear that there may be late breaking news. When we had the little earthquake last year I saw “Earthquake!” (from a person in Virginia) on my Twitter feed at the same time as it was happening in the office. Kind of cool. I love following Twitter during political debates, discussions and other such events. I have a Twitter list set aside for my growing political information habit and that’s what I usually have scrolling by on my desktop. Oddly enough, these bits of information usually keep me focused on the task at hand, because it keeps my mind wandering when I’m doing tasks that don’t require a lot of brain cycles. It’s just the way I’m wired.
I was working on The Big Project yesterday when I saw my supervisor’s reflection in my super glossy monitor. He was standing behind me and that doesn’t really bother me because he’s a good guy and I enjoy working with him. I went to look someone up on iChat so we could drop them a line when my Twitter feed popped up over another window. Unfortunately, the Twitter name of the latest update was a little suggestive.
Though it’s known that I follow Twitter at work for the reasons mentioned above and nothing was said about what had appeared on my screen, I felt somewhat ashamed of myself because I don’t believe that that sort of activity belongs in the workplace. Though I’m a goofball, I still believe that a high level of professionalism should always be maintained and this little thing was not demonstrating my beliefs. So last night I decided to clean out some of the racier accounts that I follow on Twitter and to make doubly sure that nothing like that happens again, I created a separate Google Talk account so that I could continue chatting with the vendor that uses Google Talk without having my former Google+ contacts pop up on the chat window list (what’s that about, anyways).
I always worry about offending people when I unfollow them on a social network, because it’s kind of like a slap in the face, especially without an explanation. And because I’m already rather selective as to who I follow on Twitter and the like, it’s not a huge deal for me, but nevertheless, I felt that this particular incident was less stellar than I strive for when I reach for the stars.
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