The issue I have found most challenging to deal with this year has been the attempts my some cowardly critics to connect my personal life (including my hobby of writing and publishing Fitzroyalty) to my work life, presumably in an attempt to undermine my professional reputation and my employability.
These critics seem incapable or unwilling to understand that my work life and personal life are two separate things. My employer does not own me and is not required to endorse, or even be aware of, my behaviour outside the workplace. If it does not break the law, my contract or professional standards then it is none of their business. End of story.
I try to avoid identifying myself as an employee of my employer in my personal life (apart from family and close friends) and attempt to keep as comprehensive a separation of work and personal life as possible, in the real world and the online world.
I am a careful user of social networks. My Facebook account, for example, is as locked down and private as it is possible to be. I don’t list my employer in my profile and don’t accept friend requests from strangers. Until recently my Linked.In profile, which I use as my online CV, listed my employer but I have removed this as the information has been misused. Using different platforms for different contact groups is a common strategy but it is a far from perfect solution.
I was surprised recently when my boss asked me why someone, who he knows through industry networks, approached him at an event and criticised me for something that has nothing to do with my work. Fortunately my boss thought this was inappropriate and irrelevant and it had no negative impact on my job. In fact, my careful explanation and management of the situation actually enhanced my reputation at work.
When a second attack came, this time anonymously by email, the company already understood the circumstances and was comfortable with ignoring it. I was forwarded the email and chose not to respond to it, although I wrote about it afterwards.
The third attempt to connect my hobby with my employer came via comments on a profile about Fitzroyalty on the Online Journalism Blog, which publishes a series on hyperlocal sites. The anonymous commenter pasted text from an out of date online advertisement that described my role and linked to the advertisement in his comment.
The commenter also accused me of being a sell out because I work in online marketing and in my personal life I am critical of some aspects of online marketing. This criticism has no purpose other than to attack me as an individual. It makes no sense as a critique of my behaviour.
To illustrate the absurdity of this, consider a similar scenario. I am sometimes required to drive a car for work, but in my personal life (such as commuting to work or going out in the evening) I usually cycle or take public transport. As employees we are all required to undertake tasks that we do not necessarily agree with or would not choose to do in our personal lives. To criticise someone for being a sellout for undertaking lawful employment is meaningless and illogical.
I find this behaviour inexplicable. Who I am and what I do for work are not the same thing. The labour I sell is not an expression of my identity. At most, it is evidence of my education, training, skills and experience. This is hardly the extent of my individuality.
Fitzroyalty is also not a transparent or comprehensive representation of my identity. It is a construct, and can be most accurately described as an extension or expression of only some my personal interests, which include the culture of my home suburb, food, travel, media, motor racing and ethics.
My friends remark on the significant difference between my real personality and my online persona. I suggest that they think of me as an intellectual Max Headroom, but I put my name to my writing because I am proud of it. I don’t try to hide behind anonymity or a psuedonym.
Fitzroyalty is an expression of ideas, and is deliberately designed to be unlike existing media. Too few readers seem to understand this. It is not trying to be liked by, or relevant to, a mass audience. It is trying to be relevant and interesting only to a niche audience of educated professional inner city people – the people I see as my peers.
Fitzroyalty is deliberately confrontational because this encourages engagement and interaction. If you want to be heard in the online cacophony of social media, you have to stand out. I’m being deliberately provocative and this has proven to be a successful publishing strategy.
This is not a complex idea and it’s not difficult to understand, unless of course you’re an old school public relations dinosaur who doesn’t understand social media. Or an ignorant loser who has a tall poppy resentment of someone who appears more successful than they are.
The first critic was John Flower of HHME, but the subsequent two have been anonymous and I don’t know if they are the same person. They seem to be reading everything I write, and should therefore have been aware that the first attempt to discredit me failed. So why continue with the same strategy? It suggests that the people involved are not very bright. They’re also cowards who can’t put their name(s) to their opinions or contact me directly to debate the issues.