Rediscovering my voice

I took the latter half of 2017 off from blogging. Not because I didn’t want to write- quite the opposite. It’s that I couldn’t figure out how to communicate what I wanted to say through the persona that I’ve created for myself. I’ve felt fundamentally stuck.

And I don’t think I’m alone nor that it’s just a function of social media. The 2016 election and 2017 fall out has ruptured the pseudo-belief that we could (and should) have a separation between our work selves and “personal” [read: political] selves . (Others went further and said that there IS no separation- most notably the google-glassholes and brogrammers.)

We created empty personas for ourselves- using motivational quotes and stories as substitutes for actual authenticity. The rise of livestreaming led to an additional level of pseudo-transparency. “Look”, the self-proclaimed motivational speaker states, “This is what my day-to-day live looks like. If I can do it, so can you!” And yes they get followers and build up fan bases- because that’s what we do as humans- we look for opportunities to connect particularly with charismatic individuals.

So this new breed of thought-leader/motivational speaker began to write books and get speaking gigs, all coining their various branded hashtags and “communities”. And we let them do it- in fact we supported them.

But did you ever take a moment to look at them? I mean really look at them? Notice any similarities?

Yep.

But we couldn’t talk about it. Just like we couldn’t talk about the fact that “diversity panels” tended to be led by men or the fact that a celebration of women in leadership turned into a carefully cordoned off “women’s lunch”- where men feared to tread.

The BIG no-no was calling out the lack of diversity in speaker line-ups and influencer lists. “Women just aren’t interested” was the line. Heaven-forbid there be any type of systematic bias.

But there was. And there is.

I could go on and on but I won’t- there are already some excellent articles documenting the barriers women and minorities face in the “thought leadership field”.

My point is that these are the issues I didn’t know how to raise on social and my blog. Like women in other industries have written, I too worried that I’d be labeled as “difficult to work with” which could be a death knell to advancement in our very relationship-based industry.

So I set up guardrails. My Twitter account and blog would be for social media and marketing related content. On Facebook I used lists to limit visibility to posts containing personal opinions to non-work contacts. Over the years I made two exceptions: Ferguson (during which I lost a lot of Twitter followers due to my retweets) and marriage equality. But when you look at the blog posts I wrote about both (here and here) you can see how I threaded the needle.

Then Trump got elected and everything changed. Really it had been building up over the summer of 2016. That’s when many of my marketing “friends” wrote posts on Facebook saying that they were unfollowing (in some cases unfriending) anyone talking about politics or the election. (I had quite the blog post written about that on my phone which I never posted.)

It hit me how much I let others dictate what I talked about and how I talked about it. It also struck me that I was enabling this to continue by teaching others how to selectively wall off the parts of themselves that might make others uncomfortable in the creation of their own “pseudo” personal brands.

I came to realize that I’ve long operated according to the rules of another’s dream: to have a space free from uncomfortable personal issues- such as gender, race, culture, politics, immigration status, maternity/paternity, age- all of those things that startups allude to when their “well we didn’t have HR excuse”.

I don’t exactly know where I go on to from here. I don’t quite have a strategy- which for me is rather disconcerting. But I do know that I do others a disservice by not sharing my truth and by failing to speak up.  Let me be clear- speaking up does not have to mean shouting or condemning. Rather it is adding an additional point of view to the conversation and insisting that it get equal treatment.

This, then, is what I’m going to be devoting 2018 on this blog to. I’ll be discussing how we have conversations with each other online and offline. How we ensure that all voices are brought equally into the conversation. If that’s something that you’re interested in as well then I invite you to follow along and share your thoughts.

And finally a special thanks to my community who has stood alongside me since this blog’s beginning back in 2013. This blog has always been a place for me to try to put the various pieces of my reality together and pull together what that means for me as a professional. This is where with your support I believe I first came into my own as a social strategist. It seems fitting that this is where I take the first stab at articulating my next steps.

If you enjoyed the POV of this post then definitely stay tuned….

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