I grew up online. More than that, for a long time I lived my whole life online. Since I was old enough to use a computer unsupervised, I’ve been typing away on the internet, sharing my thoughts, feelings – and opinions – with strangers, and forming close bonds with people on the other side of the planet. While I struggle to speak openly about my personal feelings offline, online I’m an open book.
So when a colleague pulled me to one side recently to tell me that I might want to think a little more carefully about the content I put out online, I was stunned. To me, sharing my frustrations and highs and lows with the internet was as natural as breathing. Whenever something happens in my life, I tell my partner, then my mother and then Twitter. It’s just how it is and how it’s always been.
I’ve always shunned advice that told me to be ‘less me’ online. You know, the advice that says: ‘Be careful about what you post online, in case a future employer sees it.’ To me, the internet was the one place I could be unashamedly myself, so to be told to be more conscious of what I was posting felt like being told to be less like myself – which in turn felt like being told that ‘myself’ wasn’t acceptable to employers or society in general.
But I’m learning that there are merits to holding back online. Since moving into the world of full-time work, I’m beginning to appreciate more and more the joys of having separate worlds. Where once I made no distinction between ‘online me’ and ‘offline me’, now I enjoy being able to switch off.
See, online I am loud, messy and unashamed. After a while, that can be exhausting. It’s exhausting being the one that people turn to, to comment on everything. It’s emotionally draining pouring out your heart every single day. So getting to go to work and spend eight hours a day being a little bit quieter (a little bit ‘less me’) is a nice break.
That’s not to say that offline me is completely different to online me – or that my colleagues don’t know anything about my double life. On the contrary, my boss, my boss’ boss, and my boss’ boss’ boss all know about my online activities, and commend me for my passion. But sometimes it’s nice to not be Olivia the Online Activist, and instead be Olivia the Copywriter in Marketing.
It’s also not to say that there’s necessarily any need to keep your ‘career’ and your online presence separate. In fact, for many these days that’s impossible. As Twitter is essentially a digital networking space, and it’s possible (and even aspirational) to run a business from your laptop in your bedroom, there are distinct benefits of mixing work and social media.
For me, being open and honest online has been vital to my career. Thanks to my blog and my Twitter addiction I’ve met lifelong friends and forged valuable career connections. Had I kept my social media ‘strictly professional’, it’s unlikely that I’d be where I am today.
What is becoming more and more important to me is to find balance between my two worlds. I don’t want to be defined by my 3am online meltdowns (which, thankfully, are becoming less common as the years go by) or by that misguided argument with a stranger on the internet.
I don’t want to be interviewed on Desert Island Discs (spoiler alert: my life goal is to be on Desert Island Discs, so Kirsty Young, if you’re reading this, hit a girl up) in 20 years time, only to be asked if I regret sharing so much of myself online. I want to save some things for the physical world; to have some stories that people will only know if they come to mine for dinner, or befriend me over the course of decades.
Yes, it is important to think carefully about what you share online, but not because of what a future employer might say. Instead, you should be cautious of how much you share with the internet because if you’re not careful, you’ll have nothing left for the tangible people in your life.
Picture credit: http://aliciadrhankins.com/your-magnet-voice/
About the author
Olivia is a copywriter, blogger, and digital media pro with a passion for politics and social media. In 2014 she founded the feminist blog Petticoats and Patriarchy, and since then she’s gone on to write for digital publications about politics and activism in the age of social media. In June 2017 she became the deputy editor of The Nopebook, an online feminist lifestyle magazine that aims to entertain, inform, and empower. She can usually be found on Twitter (@oawoodward) tweeting about politics, feminism, and cats.