If someone asked me about my thoughts on social media and my own Twitter usage, I would send them this Alex Cohen Interview. Why? Because I won’t be able to explain what I think about Twitter better than how Cohen explains it in this post.
Storytime: A few months back I was discussing Twitter with someone. Let’s call him person X. Person X was telling me about his friend [let’s call him Y] who thought I had this obnoxious strong opinionated ranty personality on Twitter. And he wondered how can people work with someone like me. This is something I have heard from a few other people in the past too. I know that I am perceived as this strongly opinionated person online. A lot of people also call me out on my shit posting. Generally, I don’t care about what people think. But sometimes I do wonder if I am doing myself a disservice by speaking/writing whatever comes to my mind.
When I tweet about being truthful on social media, people DM me in private and tell me how thankful they are that I call our bad actors in public and try to speak the truth. When I show vulnerability online, people DM me and tell me that they also feel the same way but can never tweet out the same things like I do. They thank me for my tweets.
I am happy that people feel that way. Compliments are always nice. But I know deep down that people relating with me are not going to help me in my career.
The ultimate strategy to win in your career is to remember that the world’s a stage and play one of the winning roles: cheerleader VC, the always optimistic founder, the networker who comments on all VC threads. If you are a spoilt sport who calls asks hard questions on social media, you are only going to narrow your career options. And for some people that work. If you want to build your distribution channel, grow your audience, you can always counterposition yourself and speak against the dominant narrative. But as a middle manager in a VC-funded company, I will only stick out like a sore thumb if I continue to spew strong opinions on social media; things that people only discuss in private.
I met a friend recently and we were talking about how most career advice on social media is just bullshit. Something people use to signal to their tribe. Example. Read the top 5 career posts. Find the top 5 qualities mentioned in those posts. Now compare these qualities with the top 5 execs in your company. Do you think all of them display these qualities? The career hacking aspect is totally disconnected from growing as a good “product” manager. Note the emphasis on the “product” part. While people are reading Stratechery and think that will help their career, I think they would find far more insights by just observing how execs behave and replicate their strategy. Now realize that I am talking about career growth and not becoming a better PM. If you want to become a better PM, then sure, read about thought pieces on distribution, learn how to lead a team better, read books on design and data. But the things that will help you grow in a corporate environment are totally disconnected from being a good PM.
Then there is this thing about people having 2 completely disconnected personas: their social media one and the real one. The things they say on social media, the stories they tell online vs how they behave in real life. And I think that is fair. I believe that there is limited upside in speaking what you think is true on social media. The kind of things I discuss with my friends who work at larger companies is not something I will ever tweet out online. That knowledge lies in private DMs.
Sometimes I want to joke about things I keep thinking about. I have had a tweet “we need a support group for middle managers” in my drafts for a long time. I recently wanted to tweet it out after another long tiring day at work.
Then that same tweet went through multiple filters in my head:
- Why do I keep positioning myself as a middle manager when I can just do thought leadership like other leaders of the ecosystem and spew generic gyaan?
- Am I showing low agency?
- Why can’t I just share links, cut out the commentary, and not share anything that might be seen as vulnerable or a failure.
- Everyone is so successful and sure about themselves on social media. Why do I have to share actual thoughts I have. What was the need to share things like me having an existential crisis since I was a kid?
- All of these tweets will only lead to people assuming I am not emotionally strong.
Finally, I did not post it, though I discuss these things all the time with my close friends. The discussions we have in private are far more real than anything I see on social media.
I had shared a meme a few days back about us middle managers being in the firing line and protecting our team from changing exec priorities. It was a meme. Something I posted to get a few laughs. But like most memes/jokes, it was grounded in some base reality. I came back on Twitter to see someone quote tweet ‘while middle managers protect their team, senior managers manage execs’ or some shit like that. What was the point of him tweeting that? He was just signaling that he is a senior exec somewhere. Lets be honest: we all know how much power senior leaders have when it comes to pushing back to the CEO/ C-suite. Because of stupid signallers like him, I hedge my tweets and don’t post half of the things that I share with our friends.
Since I started writing online more than a decade back, I have tried to have the smallest of the delta between my social media persona and who I am. I have tried a lot of things to help me become more open and honest on social media. In spite of that, I keep overanalyzing my tweets before I post. I delete my tweets every day.
I even put my Twitter on private a few days back. I thought if someone is following me explicitly they won’t crib about me writing something they disagree with. The irony is that I had to turn it back to public because I had to rant about HDFC Life and tag multiple customer support accounts on complaint tweet I had sent out.
I think slowly most social media platforms will become useless. See your Linkedin feed today? That will be Twitter after 5 years. Just virtue signallers tweeted truisms to get likes. Hustlers tweeting Silicon Valley trope. Networkers back-slapping and signal boosting each other. People will be filtering what they say. Maybe you will find a good recommendation or two, but it will be not worth your time. Also, my account is probably 10X more filtered than it was a year back. So who am I to judge anyone.
The only places worth spending time are those where people can hide behind anonymity and speak what they truly believe in. Hence I am spending most of my time nowadays reading content on Reddit and Blind. And I recommend you to do the same.
Scattered thoughts on social media, truth speaking, digital presence [oldest to recent]:
- Twitter Rules
- Shitposting on Twitter <- no longer believe this
- I deleted my Facebook account
- Social Media filter
- Cutting down my Twitter usage
- Why you should unfollow me on Twitter
- 3 months of less Twitter
- Thought policing
- Religion and Truth seeking
- On truth speaking and not virtue signalling
- Digital minimalism