Sunday, August 30, 2015
I have a loving and intelligent older sister who sent a very caring personal message to me this morning warning me that my Facebook posts make it look like I am having too much fun. Her observation echoed a similar one made by my dean just a few months ago. Both comments made me question my use of social media.
Here’s the deal. Facebook is my personal space and I try to post there once a day. The posts are usually about fun, personal things such as my children, activities, funny moments, travel, etc. I occasionally post professional achievements, publications, or experiences there, but they are far less frequent. Those, and only those, I post on LinkedIn, which I consider to be my professional presence on social media. On LinkedIn, you will never see a picture of me teaching myself to play hockey or talk about weekend hikes.
That is the purpose of Facebook or Instagram (or whatever personal social media platform you choose). As I explained to my dean, no one wants to see a picture of me sitting in front of my computer staring at a blinking cursor, which is what I do most of the time. Instead, I consciously search for and share the aspects of my life that other people might enjoy seeing and reading or may be inspired by. But apparently in doing so, I am giving the false impression with that one photo or update a day that I am having too much fun. And one thing we can never have is professors, especially law professors, having TOO. MUCH. FUN.
Maybe I should start posting updates at the end of the day on word counts, editorial battles, legal analysis, and scholarship, especially dealing with child pornography, which is the subject of my current research. It may be boring and depressing, but at least then people would know that most of my time on most of my days is spent on serious professional endeavors, which is actually, a more accurate portrayal of my day-to-day life.
Alternatively, I could become circumspect, a human monolith. I could retreat back into the 20th century (in my mind at least) and pretend that there was no such thing as social media. I could deny that it has become one of the most formidable relationship- and community-building tools in today’s world, and eschew its use. That approach could protect the privacy of our family and our children and ensure that no tweet or status update could come back to bite me years from now.
But then again, I am an extrovert, a social creature. Academia is not a natural environment for people like me. Being locked up in an office with a computer, piles of paper, and mostly our own thoughts is an exhilarating but unsustainable place--unless we can connect socially. Social connection is our oxygen. Fortunately, social media allows us to connect without ever having to turn our eyes away from that blinking cursor. Thus, each day I reach out and try to connect with my family and friends (many of whom are also colleagues and former students) to exchanges updates, photos, likes, comments, and messages. In doing so, I can laugh, breathe, and smile, and hopefully, end my day going to bed thinking thoughts about things other than little children being raped.
The price of admission to this land of mental cotton candy? One happy post a day.
Does it mean I am having too much fun? Only if you believe everything you read on Facebook.