Thoughts on online authenticity

As I hunt for a job, I think more and more about my online activities. Given the recent firing of Gina Carano from Lucasfilms, I wondered briefly about whether that was fair, but then I came away from it thinking she Tweeted under her real name and representing the Mandalorian and Disney under that same account. Of course, Disney/Lucasfilm has the right to fire her for any reason including posting public Tweets they don’t like, so that’s that. Then I think, what if she had kept her named, verified account professional and Tweeted only about her entertainment projects and supported her cast members and instead tweeted authentically under an alias? Why was it so important to her to tweet authentically under her real name? Thinking back to myself blogging internally when I worked, it was important to me to be authentic because I believed I was right, and I believed I had to tell people my truth and to get people to think. Looking back, it was narcissism and folly on my part. Fortunately, I had the good sense not to bring politics into work (or so I thought. I can’t really say now since that was about the time that everything was becoming polarizing and political.)

Now, thinking about having aliased online personas for authentic posts and discussions and named accounts with sanitized posts, I feel conflicted. Part of me says if an employer doesn’t think my authentic self fits into their culture, then why am I employed there? I should be able to be myself when at the workplace, right? Then I think about how I would feel knowing that a co-worker feels that black lives don’t matter or if that co-worker writes that people who go against their religious beliefs are evil and it’s okay to discriminate against them. On the flip side, how would it make someone feel to know I think black lives matter and that I support trans rights. It would make the workplace uncomfortable and I think people would have a hard time working together. I imagine we have all worked with someone like that, but didn’t know because they kept it outside of work.

When I worked, Facebook and Twitter were in the infant stage, so there would have been no way to surface those writings then. But what about now? Personally, I’m not curious enough about other people to look them up online. In my mind, unless it’s an internal blog or chat, it’s a private life matter and it’s none of my business. However, there are nosy people and nosy companies. Should it matter what I write online outside of work? Should employers seek out what employees are writing about online outside of work? I will always err on the side of privacy and preserving the boundary between work life and private life. So long as the employee is not using work equipment, work time, or engaging online at the worksite, I don’t care what that person writes. This means that the employee has to respect the work life/ private life boundary too, meaning no blogging explicitly about the company you work for unless you are the company’s representative and authorized to do so, and not linking yourself to a company in your non-work online identities. It seems that most companies respect this boundary, because if they didn’t, most people wouldn’t have a job.

So, where does this put me with respect to online authenticity? Well, regardless, be prepared for anyone to sleuth out your online identities and punish you for whatever reason. Words have consequences in general and each time we post, we take the risk of offending someone. Practically speaking, it can be fun and therapeutic to engage authentically with people online and it would be awful to be judged and punished by people who aren’t engaged with you and your online communities. My advice is to have aliased accounts or private accounts for authenticity and a sanitized public named account for nosy employers and busybodies to scrutinize. Be aware though that persistent busybodies will sleuth you out, so ask yourself before you post whether your family, friends, co-workers, and boss would be comfortable with what you are posting, and, conversely, would you be comfortable with them knowing what you are about to post.

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