I choose to be anonymous on Twitter. Often, this perplexes people. Don’t I know that there are several pros to putting a name to a face on Twitter?
- Your opinions have more credibility
- You can network more easily
- You can land more professional opportunities
Indeed, several friends of mine have landed fantastic jobs through Twitter. Having a personal brand on Twitter is a serendipity vehicle.
Despite the above, in this post, I highlight 5 reasons why I choose to stay anonymous as a professional. I also highlight why you don’t need to put a name to a face in order to reap all the above benefits. Maybe at the end of this post you might consider anonymity too.
Let’s start with how your Twitter persona affects you even before joining your new workplace.
1) Pre-Joining Work: Doing Du(d)e Diligence
To paraphrase Jane Austen,
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that everyone stalks you before hiring you”.
Let’s face it. We spend more time with our peers at work than we do with our partners/ family. It is important to get the right fit (both for the employer and employee). Your social media activity says a lot about you. Far more than you’d realise.
Gone were the days where your employer judged you just for your work. A quick stalking sesh, can reveal a lot about who you are outside work as well.
Ideally, these biases should not affect how your employer perceives you. But it is hard not to separate the art from the artist (or the tweet from the tweeter). Your shitposting and sly tweets about work might affect your ability to land a job.
And employers, mind you - this goes both ways. Gen-Z is judging whether a company’s ethos matches theirs. Do they walk the talk about work-life balance? Or is work a prison?
2) Power of the Panopticon: Constant Surveillance
Speaking of prison, the philosopher Jeremy Bentham came up with a radical new prison - the panopticon. In a panopticon, the prison is circular. In the middle of this, there is a tall observation tower.
From here, a guard can see every cell and inmate but the inmates can’t see into the tower. Prisoners will never know if they are being watched or not. Think of the last time you were at work and your boss walked into the room. Did you straighten up and stop goofing around? Now imagine they were always in the room. You’d be constantly toeing the line, thinking they might catch a whiff of what you are up to.
This is the power of constant surveillance and the power of the panopticon.The internet and WFH amplified this. The internet is a virtual panopticon. Your boss is Shrödinger’s stalker, who may not also be online at the same time as you. Even if not, they can always log in later and see what you’ve been up to. When you were in office, you could always have a quick water cooler conversation. But if you are goofing around on Twitter, there is concrete evidence of that.
To me and my conscientious mind, this prevents me from freely engaging on Twitter. Especially if I’m on a deadline. I’m always looking over my shoulder. I’d like to post as and when I like. At the same time, with WFH, I miss the bonhomie of office chatter, which I recreate to some extent on Twitter.
So I’d like to continue posting anonymously.
3) The Personal is Professional
More than the vague fear of being surveilled, more concretely, your employer can fire you for a tactless tweet. Just ask Justine Sacco about how one stupid tweet ruined her life. Your employer can fire you on the grounds that it tarnishes the company’s professional image.
The ‘personal is political’ is passé. The personal is professional.
The caveats of:
- “Views Own. Not representative of employers”
- “RTs are not endorsements”
On your Twitter bio, offer merely a fig-leaf of protection.
You might as well use the limited character space on your Twitter bio for something else.
4) LinkedIn Lite: Cookie Cutter Copies
If you look at most people’s Twitter bios - their descriptors are their jobs and where they work. There is little else in the bio, because work now expands to occupy all our personal time as well.
Twitter has become LinkedIn Lite.
Another problem with the panopticon is that it nudges people to position themselves as threadbois. Everyone is talking about optimising productivity. Or at best, safe stuff like sports.
People's personalities collapse to cookie cutter copies of each other. People are less vulnerable. They worry that it'll affect their professional brand. I personally worry that if I am talking about things outside work - my boss may think I am not very serious about work.
5) Perks of Privacy
5.1 Reaping the Dividends from a Portfolio of Identities
That said, I think my fears may be a bit unfounded. The best bosses I’ve had have always been supportive of me cultivating a “portfolio of identities”. Not just a professional one. This way, my sense of self isn’t tethered to my work alone. Through my different selves, I bring new insights and creativity to work. More importantly, I’ve been able to tangibly demonstrate value to my workplace as well. Through tweeting about food, I’ve been able to do Business Development. Turns out everyone loves food. Today, several VCs & CXOs follow me on Twitter for my recommendations. When I reach out for anything, they are always happy to help.
Additionally, through Twitter, I’ve been able to diversify my income streams from 1 to 5. As a result, I have earned over INR 50,000 in under 50 days of this year directly through Twitter. And this is a conservative estimate.
5.2 Pivotal for Pivots
More than monetarily, it has given me immense confidence. I have used Twitter as a sandbox to learn copywriting and marketing. I enjoy learning how to “hack” growth immensely. After growing my personal brand, I got several inbound requests to help brands with marketing. I did this as a side-hustle, till I was confident to pivot full time to marketing. Confidence comes with competence. I used Twitter to anonymously build proof of work to beat my imposter syndrome.
But why not do it with your name to your face? If you are anonymous, you have the freedom to experiment. You aren’t boxed by your current skill set. If you are using a handle with your name, your employer may become suspicious. Especially if your new skill set doesn’t align with your JD. You may lose your job on account of “moonlighting”.
To me, the cost of:
- Being discriminated pre-hiring
- Feeling constantly surveilled
- Reducing my identity to only my professional self
- Losing my job over a tactless tweet
- Being taken less seriously at work and being passed over for promotions
Outweigh the pros of building a personal brand with my true identity.
Especially when I continue to reap numerous benefits anonymously.
There is also the assumption that if you don’t have a face on Twitter, you are less credible. I beg to differ. If you consistently provide value, opportunities will keep knocking at your door. Yes, it might take a bit longer. But over time, I believe your work speaks for itself. When opportunities come, you can then choose if you want to reveal your identity or not on a need-to-know basis.
In conclusion, you don’t need to reveal your identity in order to hitch a ride on Twitter’s serendipity vehicle. Lessgo! 🚀