Over the last few years, I’ve had a few people ask me why I don’t create two Twitter accounts so I can separate work and personal things.
I choose to use one account because I am more than a content feed, and I want to encourage others to be their whole selves. I want to acknowledge that we don’t work in isolation from what’s going on in the greater world.
I love learning things from people on Twitter. I find a lot of quick tips and SQL and Power BI blog posts from Twitter. I love seeing all the interesting data visualizations shared on Twitter.
But I also love learning personal things about people. I love to see photos of your dogs and views while hiking. I like knowing that my friend Justin is really into wrenches. And my coworker Joey (who I followed on Twitter long before I worked with him) is really into cycling. And my friend Matt is into racing. I followed all these people before I met them in person. Many of my Twitter friends became “IRL” friends after we met at conferences.
I definitely lurked around the SQL community (Power BI didn’t exist yet) for a while before I ever worked up the courage to say anything to anyone. And I started out with mostly data/work-related tweets. But as time went on, I realized how much I appreciated when others shared personal info about themselves, that helped me get to know them better. And I became more comfortable sharing more about me. So now I’m sort of giving back, with both professional and personal information.
Note: I do this personal/professional crossover only on Twitter, because I have deemed that to be an appropriate audience for both. I don’t share many personal things on LinkedIn. And I don’t share professional things on Instagram or Facebook. That’s my personal preference.
Are there risks to this? Absolutely.
People might stop following me because they don’t care for the personal content. My political opinions or obsession with my dog might turn some people off. Someone might be offended by my tattoos or my occasional use of profanity (which I never direct at someone and use more to express frustration/excitement/surprise). Or they may tire of my frequent use of gifs.
I know that potential and current clients see what I tweet. And it can and does affect their opinion of me. But when you hire me as your consultant, you get my personality and personal experiences as well as my tech knowledge. So, I don’t see it as being so very different from meeting me in real life at a conference or at another social event.
So far, it’s been an overall positive experience of having IRL conversations with clients about something I tweeted that they found helpful or entertaining. I do make a point not to name specific clients or projects unless I have their permission to do so (sometimes there are legitimate exceptions). I respect client privacy and confidentiality online and in person.
Before I could get to this place, I had to be secure in myself and secure in my employment and professional network. I recognize that not everyone will like me. That is true in person and on Twitter. And that’s ok. If you want to unfollow me, I’m ok with that. If you want to engage in conversations only about work stuff, that’s great. Feel free to mute words to tune out the rest of my tweets (your best bets are “Colorado”, “Denver”, “dog”, “kayak”, and “hike”). If you want to talk only about dogs and nature and my adorable and efficient camper, that’s also fine.
If you dig deep enough, I’m sure you can find some tweet that wasn’t my best moment. I’m sure I’ve said something regrettable in the 14 years since I joined Twitter. But I’m going to extend myself a little grace and remember that I’m human. And I’ll accept feedback if you think something I’ve said was unkind or made you feel unwelcome.
There is also a risk that someone can use this personal info against me, for harassment or identity theft. That is a risk for anyone sharing anything personal online. For now, I have assessed the risks and the rewards, and I find the rewards to outweigh the risks. I may decide differently later.
Do I recommend this for you?
Here’s the thing: I don’t think there are absolutes when it comes to how people use social media. If it makes you happy and it’s not hurting anyone, it’s probably fine.
It’s important to me that we remember that the people who teach us Azure and SQL and Power BI are people with non-work interests and personal struggles and interesting life experiences. And their more personal content gives me ways to relate to them outside of technology. Sometimes I learn really useful things from them, like the right type of lubricant to fix a squeaky door. Sometimes I notice a current event in their life that I can use to start a conversation at a conference.
Basically, I choose to use Twitter in a more human way. It’s working pretty well for me so far. You can decide if you have the desire and ability to do that. When this way of interacting with people stops being rewarding for me, I’ll reassess and take a different approach.
3 thoughts on “Why I tweet about work and personal topics from the same account”
Well said Meagan. Scott Hanselman says “follow the whole person on Twitter” and I think that’s great advice.
I thoroughly enjoy learning about people’s kids, dogs, hobbies and vacations.. Not everything on the Internet has to be as hyper focused as stack overflow. Sometimes it’s just nice when someone expresses sorry for the hoody you left at EWR TSA
I enjoy seeing pictures of dogs, cats, scenery, things I may not see where I live, as well as pick up on the little tidbits of non-technical information. So post on, please. I learn more from the folks who tweet both technical and personal ideas than I do from the folks who only post one or the other. And, if I ever see you at a Summit, or SQL Saturday, I can at least ask you how your animals are doing or about places you’ve traveled, as well as any technical questions I might have. I like that.
I don’t use separate accounts for posting to Twitter and am glad I don’t. I started posting to Twitter at my previous job, both using my personal account and a work account, separate accounts, of course. But when they laid me and others off, they had me shut down the Twitter account associated with my work. If I had combined them, then I would have had to start over again with a new personal account on Twitter.
And in my current job it wouldn’t work, either. My employer blocks ALL social networks, so Twitter isn’t available. It’s a pain, because when I needed to ask a SQL related question on Twitter, I would have to wait overnight, so I could go home, ask the question using #sqlhelp, then wait to the next day or two, before I’d see it. Since I’m working from home what I do now is go to one of my personal computers to ask on Twitter, then get an answer much faster, then go back to my work laptop to use the answer I got. One of the many benefits of working from home.