Saturday, August 20, 2011

Communication Trepidation

NoDoubleStandards at Muttering Behind the Hardline has closed his digital doors. The fact that such a major proponent and supporter of Foreign Service blogging has decided to close up shop sends shivers down my spine.

I have so far found FS blogging to be an overwhelmingly positive experience. It's helped me keep track of friends and make new ones. And as NDS said, "The Man" has been cool with it. I had a less positive experience in a previous job; after an entirely innocuous post that happened to mention the name of my employer I was summoned to a meeting with HR, where I was told - with clear intention to intimidate, though no actual basis for doing so - that although I hadn't actually done anything wrong, they *knew* about my blog and *were watching me*. Dun dun dun. In the FS I had heard stories about social-media-paranoid posts and didn't want to run afoul of any rules, written or otherwise, so I brought it up at my inbrief on the first day. The RSO and I agreed on a policy of "don't be stupid," which seems fair.

But the thing about the internet is that nothing ever really goes away, and I may not actually know when I say something stupid until it comes back and bites me in the ass a decade down the road. And when people read that stupid thing for the first time it has all the freshness and immediacy as if I had just said it - unlike memory, the text doesn't degrade over time. Thanks to the wonders of the information age, the fate of the presidential candidate being pilloried for something he once said on the record as a junior congressman can now belong to us all, at one level or another.

But there's really no 100% effective way to guard against this. To interact with other human beings is to risk rubbing them the wrong way. The miracle of communication that is the internet can amplify this effect but it also amplifies the benefits of human interaction in a million ways, which is why we all keep blogging and tweeting and obsessively checking our Facebook pages.

Godspeed NDS. We'll miss you.


  1. Even though, I don't know you, I do love reading your blog! I am in the middle of my own process of pursuing a career in the FS, and your blog entries have really helped me think about the career ahead.

  2. Unsolicited praise makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.