Telling stories

When too much really is too much

Posted by southwrite on December 5, 2009

Image by Index Photograph. Used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

I was talking to a writer friend recently about a freelancer of our acquaintance and the topic of openness. The person in question tended – shall I say – to be a bit too explicitly personal in her Twitter postings. Although neither of us had ever met her in person – it was after all a social “media” acquaintance – we had gotten a pretty intimate view of certain aspects of her life.

That got me to thinking when is too much too much?  These days the cliché “too much information!” comes to mind on a nearly daily basis.

My friend was concerned that the young lady’s twittering might prove detrimental to her career – she was a freelancer after all. Who knows how many clients were reading these posts and being turned off without giving her chance.

Obviously, reality TV and the likes of Jerry Springer have made keeping anything private – no matter how embarrassing – seem so, well, 19th Century Victorian. In fact, the more extravagant the misdeed the better and the more likely it could make you a star or an in demand book author (good news for ghost writers). 

In fact, campaigning for a spot on a reality show is something you plan your life around. If you’re the parents of a balloon boy or crashed a White House dinner – all the better for your chances. If it isn’t already, reality show contestant should be a job category – and one with true growth potential.

It wasn’t always like that. We former office workers remember the days when revealing too much was a much more local affair. There was the young lady with ample cleavage on display or the guy who couldn’t stop talking about his many, many, many feminine conquests. Relatively few ordinary people thought about leveraging their mistakes into media attention and that was a good thing.

Unless you’re aspiring to join the Real Housewives of New Jersey, looking bad may not be so good. Social media of every kind has given us all the means to project our talents, opinions and foibles far and wide. Where once our bad taste might have been limited to a few friends, family and co-workers we can now build a sizable platform from which to expose ourselves.

This ability can outpace your better judgment. Some people have discovered that employers troll social media sites looking for background data on job applicants. Facebook posts and funny pictures can solidify opinions long before you ever show up in your best business suit.

Just as businesses are careful about the image they project to the public, freelancers need to be conscious of what they’re saying to their customers as well. If provocative statements are part of your image then by all means keep writing those attention grabbing Twitter posts. If they aren’t something you want clients to read then don’t. And, save your misdeeds, tall tales, and bad taste for the home office. The dog won’t care and the public will never know.

2 Responses to “When too much really is too much”

  1. Jackie H. said

    Since I have a personal blog, I think about that issue each time I post…Since I plan to sell my personal stories some day, I think my blog is necessary…but a friend coined a phrase “public personal” that I think about as I write…I write posts that are personal but I wouldn’t mind sharing in public…it’s a subtle thing, but it helps…

    • southwrite said

      Thanks for your comments, Jackie. Sharing personal thoughts and experiences in writing is good, but problems can arise when the writer doesn’t think through what they’re sharing. Is it a good reflection of me and does it present the kind of image that’s going to further my career?

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