Lightbulb! I just realized what makes me so uncomfortable with social media. As lawyers, we are sort of trained to not express an opinion about things – just focus on the facts, lest others attribute our opinion about a particular issue to their case/facts/circumstances; or, worse yet, judge us by our thoughts and opinions. Indeed it can be both a pro and a con depending on your desired audience. But, without a doubt, it comes down to a very public reflection of your professional reputation among potential clients, judges, colleagues, and friends.
Lawyers, generally (not universally), are somewhat reflective by nature – even philosophical. (Hence this post.) While we openly (and sometimes loudly) share opinions in person with one another, to put such thoughts out into the almighty internet is kind of scary, mostly because we don’t have control over who “hears” them. In person, we know who said what and when. Online, the comments are not only visible beyond our comfort zone of trusted colleagues, but now in the eternal abyss of human consumption beyond our control.
And therein lies my next hang-up with social media: control (or lack thereof). While arguably, there are ways you can control who sees what you’ve said in social media, we all know there are ways around that. In fact, it’s the very hallmark of social media – you actually want people to share your comments/blog posts/articles. It’s supposed to elevate your credibility in a way that turns into quantifiable business. In its most basic form, it’s marketing. But, not knowing who your ultimate reader may be is worrisome. I wouldn’t want something to be taken out of context or otherwise misinterpreted – we’ve all experienced how what was typed in an e-mail didn’t translate well to the reader for lack of tone or context.
Lack of control is a tough thing to accept. Take for example my recent Facebook posts about my horrendous commute from Union County to downtown Columbus. Mostly what I posted was in jest, because humor is supposed to deflect the stress. But it’s funny to me how many comments I have gotten from people who got wind of my “rants”. They fell into two camps: (a) those who found them hilarious and (2) those who suggested I might have an anger management problem. I find it interesting how people can come to such different conclusions about these posts. (For the record…on the realization that my commutes were maybe getting slightly more nerve-racking than necessary, I did take measures to ease my anxiety for the sake of those travelling around me. I have taken to books on CD – they distract me from the idiocy occurring around me.)
Lack of control in who reads your stuff, coupled with my realization that differing minds come to differing conclusions, translates into something of an epiphany: social media is just plain scary. The net effect is watered-down commentary about nothing. Sharing information without expressing an opinion, and a reluctance to share thoughts or experiences, lest someone misinterpret or judge me. In fact, I just read a blog post on Law.com, which discusses this very thing – how lawyers “need to venture beyond the “safe and boring” when writing a blog…and the importance of listening and engaging for lawyers who write a blog.”
Now what? I’m not sure. I’m not one to dwell on anything really. In fact, I’m more of the “get over it” or “move on” type. And, I’m also not one to do things because everyone else is doing it. I need purpose – if X, then Y. While I may not be mathematical, I am methodical – I want to do X as a step to making Z happen. So, I guess I still struggle with the Y – if I post a comment (X), then what (Y)?
But here’s the other thing…lawyers also like debate. So maybe it’s okay to post something provocative, because that sparks dialogue, which can spark change. And maybe that’s the end result? A platform for change.
What’s your Y? How do you measure it?