If I were to say that I don’t feel completely dressed unless I wear fishnet stockings under my jeans, would you think differently of me the next time we meet? I suspect that revealing such a personal choice would very likely to change your opinion of me.
What if instead of my undergarment habits, I shared something else that was personal. Perhaps who I supported for president or something else you might have strong feelings about? Would that change your opinion of me? If you are a colleague or a client, would it change how you do business with me?
“Aren’t the opinions you have about some of your social media connections different today than they were a year ago?”
As utopian as it might be to imagine that people don’t change their view of you based on a personal viewpoint, they do—particularly these days. In fact, they’ll change their view of you based on most anything you make public—my imaginary fishnet stockings, for example. Aren’t the opinions you have about some of your social media connections different today than they were a year ago—solely based on their posts? I know that’s true for me.
Some of my valued connections are clients, colleagues, and in a few cases, other companies. By association, all have entrusted me with their reputation. Stating contentious opinions publicly is likely to adversely alter some people’s view of me—and probably offend nearly half of them. Should I care if what I say might damage those relationships?
Well, I do care. My career depends upon me caring.
The vote I cast in the last election is different than at least 46% of my colleagues and clients. Close to half of them chose a presidential candidate that was someone other than my choice. And, it’s likely that those colleagues and clients are very passionate about their choice. So, it’s fair to say, my vote or opinions might change the way they view me. That’s why it seems wise to keep that to myself—along with what kind of undergarments I might prefer.
With the ease that thoughts are shared, social media can sometimes feel like standing in the middle of a small town public square while you exchange a few words with your neighbors. The difference of course is that you’re insulated from the visual cues. When you’re face-to-face, you can see people becoming uncomfortable or offended—and adjust.
Staring only at a screen, social media offers no such cues. Instead, the blinking cursor almost pleads with you to say whatever is on your mind. In that moment, you’re holding an incredibly powerful microphone, and it’s connected to the world’s largest amplifier.
Joey Terrill is a Los Angeles-based photographer with clients that include American Express, Coca-Cola, Disney, Golf Digest, Major League Baseball, Red Bull, and Sports Illustrated. He teaches workshops and speaks at seminars including the Summit Series Workshops, WPPI, Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar, UPAA Symposium, World in Focus, and Nikon School.