I posted about this topic on my work blog too – the challenges of making public statements through posting and trying to keep work and personal separate. Working in the industry and thinking about this stuff a lot, I recognize that you can never truly keep the two in different spheres. If I post here that company X are assholes and then a month later I visit them for work, there’s a potential for trouble. If I said the same thing to a friend over a beer or on the phone (and I have), then the statement passes and there’s no record.
That’s just reality and the terms we accept when we choose to write / to post / to contribute / to pontificate online. Anyone who thinks differently just hasn’t thought it through. So yes, there’s a (minor) chilling effect on what I might post here, but I’m OK with it. If and when I’m financially independent and don’t have to think about work, I’ll still self-censor, because what I say may impact other people and they could have conflicts or concerns about public posting.
It’s a grand new experiment and the rules are not cemented yet – there are still people caught out professionally by their “personal postings (here and here) – and in the latter case it’s a generational attitude mismatch. Many people in their teens and early twenties have grown up with their lives online and when this attitude comes into contact with corporations or people who are more guarded there are issues. Can any one of us stand up and say that if there had been camera phones present at all of our high school or university parties and late nights and those pictures were posted on Flickr or Facebook the next day, we wouldn’t be scrambling? Even though I didn’t drink at all in University (that’s another story), there would still be potential for embarrassment.
Eventually we’ll get to the point where it’s no longer a story (can you imagine the senate confirmation hearings of the future – “Madame Secretary, can you explain these pictures of you from Spring Break 2005?”) – in fact I think I’d argue that the kind of person who has nothing embarrassing in his or her past should be disqualified from positions of authority on those grounds alone.