Social Media – Blessing or Curse?

Like so many industries, the AV industry has a robust and valuable community in the social media sphere. Many of us have dozens, if not hundreds of contacts and “friends” that we know only via social media. While we have opportunities to catch up and meet during industry events, including the always popular tweet-ups, the majority of our interaction is virtual.

Like many other #AVTweeps and LinkedIn fans, the social media world has expanded my view of the industry, given me opportunities to learn more, and on occasion share a few things that I have learned over the years. Participating in online Twitter chats and reviewing articles and discussions on LinkedIn have become part of our daily routines.

Yet, social media also has the capabilities to break down communities and cause division. We currently live in one of the most divided times in our country (politically speaking). It is this division that makes me wonder about how we use social media as we move forward, and continue to build the online community, without damaging it.

I often think about how much someone should share on social media about their political views. These can range from specific issues (e.g., immigration, gun rights) to the actual politicians or parties (e.g., Trump vs. Pelosi). My observations have been that most of my contacts avoid controversial topics. However, that is not always the case. One example is a podcast that I was asked to be on. One of the topics was not related to AV at all. I stepped back from doing the podcast, because I did not feel that I had anything to add to the conversation, and did not feel appropriate discussing an issue not related to my knowledge and experience. The host of the podcast was upset that I was stepping back and strongly disagreed with my decision. It was that person’s view that we are all human, have opinions and knowledge and should be sharing them.

As I think about these issues, I struggle with it myself. I often see posts or stories on social media that I want to comment on. There are times I may even consider it my responsibility to comment on specific issues. Don’t we all have a responsibility to fair and open discussion of our opinions in order to come to agreement on issues? Working in higher education gives me a perspective that says: YES! It is only through open and honest discourse that we can discover facts and come to common agreement, or at least understanding.

My struggle with this is that I have personally stopped following people on social media who were part of my “AV List,” because of things they have written, re-posted or supported. This was not out of anger or a refusal to be openminded. Rather it was out of a belief that if someone holds a particular view, of which I find so offensive, it leads me to wonder if I can value their opinions on other matters. I have also spoken with people in the industry who had good friends that they ended up not speaking anymore because of social media posts.

The alternate is to look at our social media accounts as our “brand” or “online persona.” If so, does that mean we can discuss technology and debate issues, but should stay away from topics that may be controversial? How does this work for people who are well known in the industry and therefore closely associated with a business? Does the common disclaimer “my words are my own and do not represent the views of my employer” actually mean anything? Should we all create second accounts under a pseudonym, where we can debate and discuss more controversial issues? In just a few weeks we will be in the middle of what is likely to be the most controversial and technology-enabled presidential election in history. I would love to hear from others on where do you draw the line between professional and personal in the social media sphere?