The time I tracked my every move on social media

Social media diary

Earlier this month I contributed to a PhD research project ‘concerned with the role of online information in the creation, building, and assessment of personal reputations.’ My contributions were in the form of a diary and an interview over Skype. The diary exercise was for one week and it involved me reflecting on everything I did (or didn’t do) on any social media channel I use. It was hugely interesting and here I’m going to get meta and reflect on my reflections. If you are interested in taking part in the same research project, contact Frances Ryan through this form on her PhD blog.

Slowing down to think about why I took an action on social media was pretty challenging because it meant articulating something I often do quickly and automatically. I feel confident I know my online voice and identity and so what I do day-to-day on social media is rote but well within certain parameters. I found this comforting because even a few years ago this might not have been the case- I guess it signals a kind of maturity to me. The articles I shared, opinions I expressed and comments I made during the week were mostly to support someone else or to contribute to a conversation but on one occasion I shared something to make a statement and to bolster an argument of mine.

Thinking about how I judge or determine someone else’s reputation based on what they share online was also something I’d never articulated before keeping the diary. On discussion, I think I’m pretty tolerant of people’s opinions or if someone is having a kind of unhinged moment online I just think they’re, well, having a moment. I think it’s really important to understand the views of people who have different opinions to mine but this diary has made me realise I’ve built that dreaded social media echo chamber around me and I am now going to work on building and listening to a more diverse community. I have to admit I’m not entirely sure how to start but thankfully one of my favourite podcasts, Note to Self, has put together some handy tips for just this problem.

I share things about myself I am proud of and that I think are of interest to my networks. The issue of self promotion was discussed in interview and while I don’t think I toot my own horn just for the sake of it, others might interpret my actions that way. This is actually quite a deep issue for me as I’m an American working and living in Scotland and (*broad brush klaxon*) attitudes here about expressing pride in achievement, discussing accomplishment or expressing expertise are much different to American culture. These differences can create difficult situations. Helen Reynolds has recently written a great post about ‘virtue signalling’, a phrase coined by journalist James Bartholomew to partly describe people sharing, liking or commenting on something online really just being a signal that someone is virtuous and not that they really are through action. While I think Mr Bartholomew’s argument is naive and not evidenced (Helen says it’s also unfair and I agree), I’m taking it on board and I am now following him on Twitter. Echo chamber be gone!

I love to share and celebrate the good stuff my social media pals say or do. Sometimes I share information from others to indicate I am aligned with them, their thoughts or their opinions but I don’t share or endorse something solely to ride someone else’s coat tails. It’s interesting because I can see how leveraging a network or a hashtag or similar can work for entities but an individual doing the same thing (unless the individual is also an entity or brand) just seems really lame.

I’ve discovered I’m pretty vanilla in open online spaces. I identified some instances where I very thoughtfully chose to share something privately that could have reasonably shared to a wider group but the subject matter touched on things that I either thought could create a stir because it might be easily misinterpreted, because my sharing could be misinterpreted or that I know others in some of my networks have more extreme feelings or ideas about the subject matter than I do. On those occasions I don’t want to get into a debate, I just want to share something interesting and have a bit of banter around it. Where I think that might not happen with something I want to share I either keep it to myself of share privately with a select few.

I don’t throw shade. OK, maybe that’s not entirely true. I have been known to throw a bit of shade in the past but it’s usually aimed at extremely large organisations who are doing something extremely lame with technology. Which brings me on to the next reflection…

My personal and professional interests overlap in an extreme way. There are a few areas of personal interest that don’t really touch my professional social media content like my dog and sharing on the food front and daily insights front but in my circles it’s normal to have huge professional and personal overlaps which is why my social networks are such rich learning environments for me.

Other than working harder to break my echo chamber, I didn’t see anything in my behaviour online that I really want to change or that I think will be detrimental to my own reputation. But I guess that’s really for everyone else to decide.

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