How Paula Deen is Ruining Your Future: The Impact of TMI on Your Network

In case you are not up to speed on all of the latest scandals, celebrity chef Paula Deen, the Queen of Butter (shall we say Madame BUTTER-fly?…Tee hee), has been dropped from the Food Network after admitting to using racial slurs and being accused of all manner of questionable conduct (no word yet on the truth/truthiness of the other accusations).  In response to the scandal the Internet had its typical reaction:  it ERUPTED with shock, indignation, jokes, hate, love, support, protests, ignorance and threats.  Millions of people have an opinion on the situation.

Guess what?  Some of those people are in your network, and you likely have a surprising mix of both pro- and anti-Paula advocates.  The same goes for every publicly debated issue.  Immigration?  Yep. Religion.  Sure.  OJ Simpson?  Jeez, remember watching the verdict at work? That was painful for everybody involved!

In most parts of our lives, these differences of opinion don’t hinder our relationships because WE DON’T KNOW THAT THEY EXIST.  That really nice guy from IT who always fixes your computer with a smile – do you know his views on gay marriage?  What about the chair of your non-profit board?  You’ve spent hours in meetings together and met her family, but do you know where she stands on animal rights? Or Syria?  Or PC vs. Mac?  In our daily interactions we are usually too busy (or too polite) to get embroiled in controversial shouting matches, but the same can’t be said for social media.

Ahh, social media.  The traditional cocktail party rules (don’t talk about sex, politics, or religion) don’t apply.  Just take a look at your Facebook timeline or Twitter feed.   By the posts that we make, the messages that we retweet, the statements that we like, and even the people that we follow, we create an impression of who we are.   This isn’t a big problem for the friends and family that know us best.  They interact with us in other ways and get to know the whole person.  The real risk is with the other members of your network: the associates, the former co-workers and classmates, people you met at conferences, fellow blog commenters, and all the rest.  These looser connections mainly experience you through your social media persona.  They look at your actions online and make sweeping assumptions about your values, your integrity, and trustworthiness.  When you give them TMI (too much information) you could be bringing them into conversations that they don’t need to know exist.

If you believe that someone doesn’t share your values, would you be willing to:

  • Risk your personal reputation to refer him for a job
  • Pass on opportunities
  • Open up your Rolodex?

Probably not.  But if you liked the person and had zero information that makes you even think about their value system?  Yes, you already do it on a regular basis.  This is a very clear case of ignorance is bliss.

So what can you do?  With a bit of care and strategic thinking you can still connect authentically on social media without broadcasting things that could damage opinions of you.  This conversation is getting long, so we’ll talk specific tactics in our next blog post.  In the meantime, remember this:

Smart, caring, strong people sit on both sides of almost every issue.  Just because you disagree with them on one topic doesn’t mean that you can’t learn from them or that they can’t be valuable partners.

Unless, of course, they are pro-Kardashians, and then all bets are off!  (Just kidding)

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