I made a New Year’s resolution to be more active on Twitter – properly following and engaging with people (rather than just my geeky @bengoldacre crush) and not be a passive observer dipping in and out.
3 months in - what do I think?
As a civil servant I am struggling to promote policy or engage in policy debates using my own Twitter account. It feels weird actively promoting policy or activity that I might not agree with in a personal capacity – rather than just working behind the scenes to communicate government messages. This is my voice not a government channel, so how do I get the balance right?
As a civil servant I have to be impartial, but this doesn’t mean that I don’t have my own convictions and beliefs. I act in a professional way as that’s what I’m paid to do but outside of work I may have different views. The dilemma is that if I tweet or blog, but am also talking about my role as a civil servant, can I actually voice my opinions.
The Civil Service code of conduct says;
Civil servants must not take part in any political or public activity which compromises, or might be seen to compromise, their impartial service to the Government of the day or any future government.
If I link to a news article I find interesting, but is critical of current government policy; or to a comedy photo – have I crossed the line if I have also been actively using social media as a communication tool in my civil servant role?
The drift between personal and professional is also really hard to figure out – should I only discuss work things and keep away from the personal? If I am using Twitter in a professional capacity and my followers are work connections, do they want to know personal information? As a user I am sucked in to the posts about the little things – snow scores, train frustrations, kids’ pictures as well as the really interesting work ideas. So by default should I too be doing a bit of both to keep my follower numbers increasing – again what’s the balance?
At times it feels like I am trying to break into a clique – with Facebook you know that someone has accepted your friend request and by default is happy for you to comment on their posts. With Twitter I feel like a stalker commenting on a post of someone I work with and vaguely know – let alone someone I know only by reputation. It feels so much easier to comment on their blog post where they are more explicitly canvassing views.
Actively using Twitter these past few months, I have definitely felt more connected and knowledgeable about my working world and what my colleagues are up to in both their personal and professional lives. I have read even more blog posts and interesting articles which I probably would never have discovered at work or at home whilst juggling family.
So what next?
- perhaps I just accept I am one of the 40% (I got this from a Metro article – so, yes Dr Goldacre I have no idea about the validity of the research) of users who are passive observers and not stress about building up huge number of followers
- I won’t be promoting government policy in any personal capacity – just sharing good ideas that help professional development
- I am thinking about creating an alter ego – my current Twitter account is @princessgwenny perhaps I will create @yesministergwenny to enter into policy debates
- I will definitely keep all political views to myself – feels very ‘un-civil servant’ even hinting that I might have one
I would really love to hear your thoughts about this – how you juggle the professional and personal role on your account and especially you civil servants – how is your Twitter voice doing?
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