I’m not entirely sure why this bugs me so much. All I know is that I checked my personal Twitter account the other day and saw that my employer is now following me. And it kinda pissed me off.
I have a few Twitter accounts. If you’re following my writing career and activities, you might connect to me through @JulieKGilbert. If you don’t give a damn about my writing but still find occasional posts about my kids and Bruce Springsteen entertaining, you might be following a different account. My personal account. The one my workplace is now following.
Yes, that account is public, the tweets are public and yes, my workplace is totally within its rights to follow me. So why does it bug me?
One reason is a sense of boundaries. If I’ve learned anything on sabbatical, it’s that I am not my work. Work is a part of my life but it isn’t the entirety of my life, nor is it the most important part of my life and identity – not even close. So it bugs me because I don’t want to always be connected to my workplace.
I’m also not entirely sure why they bother following me. Unlike many of my Twitter friends, I don’t use my Twitter account in any professional way. I’m not networking with other library professionals or using it as a teaching tool with my students. I could, but I don’t. (I’d rather be watching reruns of Breaking Bad.) I also don’t use it to promote my institution in any meaningful way. I’m not against promoting my institution, I just don’t do it using Twitter.
I don’t think they’re trying to monitor me, but this is becoming a bigger issue in higher education – witness the University of Kansas social media policy and resulting opposition for one. I have tenure, so it’s really hard to get rid of me. But what about my colleagues who aren’t tenured? What about support staff and administrators who don’t have the protection of tenure? Will there come a day when my employer wants to crack down on how the institution is represented by all employees at all times? Maybe not….but maybe.
Sure, I sometimes vent about work on Twitter, but I try to be fair in my criticism. I also follow the Five Precepts, including the one about right speech. It’s not in my interest to trash the institution on Twitter – but my gut instinct is to say that I (and others) should be able to say whatever we want about the institution via social media.
My response is to tell my employer to stay out of my personal life. Of course, since I’m salaried and don’t punch a clock, this raises the question: When I am NOT an employee? On weekends? In the evenings? During the summer? Sure, I’m not under contract in the summers but I frequently work on the evenings and weekends during the school year, including scheduled reference hours.
I don’t have any good answers here. I just know that this is a potentially sticky, emerging issue. It has a temporarily happy ending – I blocked them from following me – but I do wonder how these questions will unfold.
What do you think? What’s your experience been like with your employer and your presence on social media? Does your workplace follow you on social media and if so, what do you think about it?