Bias in the Age of Transparency

Photo cred: Tyron Francis
Photo cred: Tyron Francis

Not too long ago, I had a conversation with a close acquaintance of mine, who is also the Director of Emerging Technologies and Social Media for a big advertising firm.  I asked him to take a look at my blog and linkedin profile to see if he can give me any advice for improvement.  He brought up something that took me by surprise.  He said, “Why do you have your picture up on all of your social media sites? People don’t need to know how old you are.”

I was a bit surprised because one of the big things I’ve heard from the social media community is how important it is to be consistent in your online presence. Use the same picture for your twitter, linkedin, facebook, etc to build your personal brand recognition.

I think sometimes we get caught up in all that social media has to offer and forget the reality of some situations.  What we so quickly forgot is that there is a great deal of bias in human beings. Everything from your age and gender to your race and religion can and does effect how people view you.

As most of my readers know, I am going to be graduating soon and I am looking for a job.  Social media has given me amazing networking opportunities, allowing me to communicate on a daily basis with people that I never would have met..but has it also hurt me? In this new age of transparency, where you’re expected to be honest and open with who you are, I have put who I am out there for anyone to see. By doing so, I may have also given a lot of companies a reason to weed me out of their recruitment process. Sometimes, all it takes is a picture.

I opted to keep my pictures up and to continue using social media as I have been, because I believe in the values of transparency and honesty.  I think its something that the professional world has lacked in the past and social media is helping us change that. 

Am I being naive? I am looking for an entry-level job in one of the toughest job markets this country has seen in a long time and cannot afford to sacrifice any opportunities. Should I be more careful? How will bias play a role in the “Age of Transparency”? … What’s your take?

What Makes A Social Media Profile Legitimate?

default_avatarDo you automatically click away from any profile that doesn’t have a picture? How many friends or followers does a person have to have before you give them the time of day?  While it may not seem like it to many of us that have been very active in social media, it is still a very new concept that is far from universally accepted.  You should expect a lot of profiles to look unprofessional, unconnected, and incomplete as many people are trying out different web communities for the first time.  Does this mean they are not worthy of communicating with you, or that you shouldn’t pursue business opportunities? That depends.

Each and every one of us had a default user picture and profile at one point, and knows what it feels like to feel lost in a new community.  While social media is in its early stages, the only way to really tell whether a profile is legitimate or not is by engaging in conversation with the person.

Personally, I have wrapped my head around facebook, myspace, linkedin and twitter pretty thoroughly. There are so many other sites that I have joined to become more familiar with, new ones coming out every day, and I have not yet become quite comfortable with them. Does that mean that I’m not worth communicating with? I sure hope not. I would hope that any one I attempt to connect with would give me a chance as I always try to provide valuable insights and am excited to grow in every community I join.

Here’s an idea.

Try to look at new users as opportunities!  Instead of clicking away from their profile and thinking, “I’ll wait until they are a bit more developed in the community“, HELP THEM!  I can attest that as a new blogger, I sometimes feel lost and find myself not knowing how to do many things.  This makes me greatly appreciate any help I get from more experienced bloggers like @SoItsComeToThis.  Usually it’s something simple like a bit of code, or a setting I haven’t seen before.

Now, as I grow as a blogger, and establish myself in the communities that I participate in, I will remember those that helped me when I was starting off.  If you’re a business trying to communicate with customers, what better way to build brand evangelism?  You never know which under-developed, “unprofessional” new users can end up helping you in the future.

Do you agree or am I just speaking nonsense?  Tell me what you think!

-David Spinks

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