Dear Twitter, Why So Serious?

There was a time when I scoffed at Twitter as something entirely trivial. Then I learned that, like most things, Twitter is what you make of it. It can be a way of alerting the general public about a major event well before the media covers it, it can be a promotional and marketing tool, and protesters and revolutionaries can use it to organize rallies and spawn meaningful discussions.

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I began using Twitter as I got more experience in the world of publishing and marketing. In my initial experience, I didn’t do it for myself. I only managed public Twitter and Facebook pages for other people who were famous, or at least well known in their fields. It was actually my Creative Director at my former internship who wisely and strongly urged me to create my own Twitter account for professional reasons. She claimed that I might not be able to compete with my peers and was missing out on a lot of potential opportunities.

This didn’t make any sense to me at first. I thought, “I’m not famous. Why would anyone care about what I have to say on Twitter?” I didn’t take it so seriously at first. Since I didn’t think anyone would care, I let my strange sense of humor take over and would often produce obscure, random, non-sensical tweets.

This might sound off-putting to some, but who cared outside of my friends/small group of Twitter followers I had at the time? They were just jokes, not meant to be taken seriously and certainly not professionally. Apparently, people do care. Employers look at Twitter accounts when making their decision to hire or even just to schedule an interview. Employers even expect professionals in certain fields to have Twitter accounts due to the nature of the work. Job applications often have required fields for Twitter links. Even people who aren’t looking to hire you often perceive Twitter as the harbinger of who you are both as a person and a professional.

I became overly paranoid from imagining what they might think of me and how many job opportunities I might lose due to the kind of tweets I’d written. Rather than deleting my Tweets and censoring myself, I decided to “Protect my Tweets” so that my followers/friends could still enjoy them. I thought it was a happy medium between completely deleting a part of my online presence and risking judgment from prospective employers. This was a mistake as well.

In a professional environment, protected Twitter accounts look as bad, if not worse, than tweets employers might find unsettling. If an employer sees your tweets are protected, they may assume that you have something truly rotten to hide rather than seeing it as a way to keep jokes inside a circle. It is also unlikely that they will try and follow you in an attempt to see what you’re tweeting and get to know you.

While I liked having Twitter as a silly medium where I could joke with my friends, I ultimately ended up making my tweets public and began to craft a presence that was both professional and personal, but with a bit of censorship as to not spook any recruiters. Don’t take these as complaints though. I’m happy that I can use Twitter as a professional tool for myself even though I’m not in the big leagues… yet. I can still post most of what I want to. It’s also a wonderful method for professional networking since I can Tweet at people I’d like to know or work with. I was just surprised to see how in changing my use of Twitter, it had transformed into a world of possibility for professionalism and fun.

How do you use Twitter? Please share in the comments below.

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