It just keeps coming up over and over again.
No, not Kim Kardashian’s faux marriage.
No, not my lunch.
This topic of being human online.
What does that mean, anyway? I mean, you’re a human, right? Oh, hi, Google bot and spam bot.
What was I saying again?
Look, the bottom line is that you and I need to talk about this thing that keeps coming up. To wit, we need to talk about this whole “being human online” thing.
There seems to be a pretty clear divide in the online world on how to handle this issue. On the one end of the spectrum you have what I call the “Don’t Know Me Folk.” These are people who really feel that they are online to promote their business or their brand, and that is what they are going to do. Do they have 3 ears? Five kids? Seventeen chihuahuas? We have no idea, and we’ll likely never find out. For these people, personal and professional mix like the acids in my tummy when I see those BP Gulf Coast commercials. Burny.
Now, on the other end of the spectrum we have the folks who I like to call “The Colonoscopites.” In other words, they embody what I have coined as the Colonoscopy Principle. With these people, nothing is too personal. Do you want to hear about their history of sexual escapades? Done. Maybe you’d like to see live video of their kid being born. No problem. Tweet that link! For these folks personal IS professional, whether that’s because they think it’s good for their bottom line or because that’s just the way they are.
I find myself somewhat in between the “Don’t see me Folks” and the Colonsocopites. As is so often the case, I am in the undefined grey area. But for me, it has always come down to a question of personable, not personal. So, for example, consider the following.
Writing a blog post about a general experience everyone can easily relate to – good!
Writing a blog post about your various levels of stuffed nose – not so good.
Writing a blog post about a life-changing event for the good of others – good!
Writing a blog post about something so personal that your readers want to gouge their eyes out with spoons – not so good.
It can most certainly be a complex line. After all, a stuffed up and/or runny nose is something we all can relate to, but it’s a matter of degrees. Giving the general idea can be okay. Talk of consistency and color, not so much. It’s a judgment call.
How to use the Colonoscopy Principle
So here is how I generally figure out this whole “being human online” thing. You can feel free to agree or disagree, of course.
Consider everyone in the online world a potential employer or customer, even if you aren’t using social media for business. Someone ALWAYS knows someone. Over the course of one year on Facebook I’ve met two people online who ended up knowing people from my personal life. It’s just crazy! So, whenever you’re blogging or tweeting or facebooking, consider whether you would tell a customer or an employer what you are about to say. In the blogging scenario, also bear in mind that your blog post may be your first introduction to people. Think about how you introduce yourself to others. Do you say, “Hi, my name is XYZ and I’d like to tell you about how I was mentally disturbed from ages 27-33!”? Do you wave to someone across the street who just moved into your neighborhood and confess that you cheated on your spouse by way of greeting?
Let’s hope not.
The same logic applies for here in digital-verse. I want to get to know you, so the all professional all the time thing doesn’t really work for me. I want to be able to picture you as a living entity not attached to an electronic device. Call me weird (but not too often). However, I also don’t want to feel like I need to have a frontal lobotomy after reading your stuff. Unless your blogsite is something like confessionalbooth.com, which I would probably not visit anyway, your readers are probably not expecting an eye-full and brain-full when they go to read a post of yours.
In other words, posting pictures of your most recent colonoscopy may be a turn-off.
Writing about why people should get a colonoscopy – good stuff.
At least that’s the way I see it. Maybe you can prove me wrong.
Incidentally, this post is dedicated to Mark Schaefer, who wrote a post about being human which inspired me to comment which inspired him to dare me to write this post. Online friends are dangerous!
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ex_magician/5708940116/ via Creative Commons