More and more people have an online presence today. For some, it's casual and conversational and sporadic, for their personal use and not necessarily consistent.
For some, it's a supportive career move. It's not their job to be online, but doing so lends some additional benefits, connections, visibility.
And for yet others (like me), online presence is a central pillar of their careers.
What's interesting to me is how our expectations and perceptions of people vary as a result of that, and why.
For the casual observer and participant, we're pretty open to anything, because we don't really have expectations outlined already. We think it's pretty consistent with their presence that they can be here one day but then not for several days, that they can talk about their cat one day and overshare about their family drama the next, and then another day share a great link or two. It's all fair game.
In the "somewhat business" context, that changes again. And for the fully present and engaged online personas, there are different expectations altogether.
Personally, I've observed how people react when I shift my tone of voice or focus, or share something more personal or funny than they might have expected (both to the positive and not). I've seen how the web reacts to others who change their mind a bit about what they're after, or how they're going to approach their presence from that point forward, for whatever reason.
The big question to me, I guess, is this:
Is it true that the more you participate and engage online, the more responsibility you have to act or behave in line with the expectations of the people around you, whether or not you purposely built them yourself? And can you shift them effectively?
In theory, I know folks are going to say stuff like not being slave to others' expectations, or that we have to be tolerant change and evolution and human uniqueness. We'll outwardly say that we don't expect access to someone based on familiarity, or that we know that everyone has a bad day or changes their mind, or that we understand when someone normally professional starts sharing crazy hamster videos on YouTube.
But we don't often respond that way (including me). When someone changes the predictable game on us, we rebel, and not always to the positive. Sometimes we're pleasantly surprised because we see a new side to someone that we didn't notice before that augments our perception of them, helps us embrace them more. On the flip side, we can toss around accusations like "inauthentic" if our expectations don't line up with what really goes down.
This is one of those posts where I don't have answers. I'm not even sure I'm asking the right questions. But there's something shifting under our feet because of availability, access, information, the density of our networks (or lack thereof) and the ease of presence now that makes us ask different things, actions, and behaviors of each other than we ever have before.
It's a remarkable shift in human behavior, enabled by technology, that has really captured my attention. It has me both encouraged, and cautious.
Are you feeling this too? How is it impacting you?