I try hard to keep my own personal political views out of my blog, my podcast and my other online activities. I understand the greatest value of the web and the social media space, for some people, is the platform it provides them for articulating their political points of view, and that's fine. It's just now what I use it for.
For me, the platform serves my desire to talk about communications: public relations, corporate communications, internal communications, media relations, blogger relations, investor relations, the whole range of communications in which companies engage. I have more passion for communication that I do for politics.
My worry is that the instant I start pushing my views, everyone who disagrees with me will suddenly and forever have a tainted view of my business commentaries. Even when I discuss government or political communication, my goal is to focus on the communication, not the politics. I always hope that, even when discussion political communication, you won't be able to guess where I stand personally.
Today, in discussing one of the pitfalls of using Twitter ineptly, I'll have to lay my cards on the table. But please: I don't want to get into a debate over healthcare reform. I want to talk about using Twitter stupidly.
I glanced at Tweetdeck this morning while preparing for tomorrow's episode of For Immediate Release, and found a tweet in the "mentions" column. This is the column that includes all tweets that include my Twitter handle, @shel.
Only this tweet wasn't about me. Instead, the individual who tweeted pasted in a retweet along with a shortened URL. The shortened URL added more than 140 characters to the tweet, which Twitter dealt with by simply lopping enough of the text at the end of the tweet to make room for it. Thus, a tweet that originally referenced somebody with the handle @shelleehale was truncated to @shel.
This isn't the first time this has happened; in fact, it's probably the 10th or 15th. It is, however, the first time it has associated me with a political view that runs directly in opposition to my own:
Because @teapartynews evidently can't count to 140â€"or didn't bother to look at what would happen to the tweet after adding the shortened URLâ€"my account is now associated with the political right in the U.S.
Admittedly, with only 1,300 followers, not a lot of people will get this tweet unless it gets widely retweeted. That's not the point. The point is that I feel like my identity has been appopriated. I know it wasn't intentional. It was, however, a gross act of negligence.
And, by the way, I'd be nearly as unhappy if the same circumstance caused my name to be associated with a cause more aligned with my own beliefs. I might not mind as much, but I'd still prefer that statements I didn't make not be attributed to me. I'm also sure my conservative friends would be equally incensed if the carelessness of a liberal caused their names to appear alongside a left-leaning statement.
I'm just asking that you take an extra couple seconds when adding a shortened URL to make sure it doesn't amputate an important part of your tweet and leave an uninvolved party twisting in the wind.