Online Professionalism: The “Life Update” Protocols by Zach PreucilAugust 11, 2017 In: Ahead of the Beat
The following post was written by Zach Preucil, a cellist, educator, and writer who was a regular contributor for Polyphonic.org. Zach provides some great thoughts here about how to share your exciting news on social media.
You’ve done it! Months of preparation, persistence and sacrifice have paid off and you’ve just won a competitive audition, secured a great teaching job, or been admitted to grad school. The forms have been signed, you’ve shaken the hand of your new boss, and called your mother. What’s next? Browsing apartments in your new city? Corking open a bottle of champagne to celebrate? The answer is probably yes to both, but if you’re an average millennial, there’s one place you’re likely to stop first: Facebook.
The so-called “life update” status is one of the most common posts one will see on the platform, and understandably so. With the ability to spread word of newfound success quite literally at your fingertips, it’s admittedly hard to resist the temptation of announcing the news while the ink is still glistening on your newly-signed contract. In fact, another common post is the “life update alert”, appearing when someone knows they’ve got whatever it is they were trying for but aren’t allowed to tell anyone yet, so they alert their followers to kindly check back the next afternoon. With such posts constituting the norm, the inevitable question arises: what is the appropriate, professional manner in which to share a professional update?
To start, let’s examine the far end of the spectrum: not breathing a word. I used to adhere to this practice quite adamantly, worrying that a tell-all of my latest success might come across the wrong way. That belief was called into question a couple years ago, however, when I accepted a faculty position at a pre-college program. I hadn’t posted anything about it, but then saw a post from a colleague announcing that they had also gotten a position at the program. Their post received a flurry of likes and comments, and one person even offered my colleague a guest teaching residency. Hmm! Maybe my undercover routine wasn’t the best strategy after all. I realized that it was important to let people know what you’re doing (or where you’re moving) after all, as it could pave the way for future collaborations and opportunities.
But, on the other side of the spectrum, it would seem inadvisable to pull out all the stops and post a novella. While your closest friends and family will be happy to hear your news no matter how you present it, there may be some on your Facebook feed who won’t appreciate five paragraphs of exuberance. You would likely not, upon winning an audition, return to the warm-up room and exclaim to the losing candidates how beyond ecstatic you are, how it must have been that Indian food you ate before round three that brought you to a win, how you’re so thankful for your teachers and friends who brought you this far, and how you’re going to have to adjust to this crazy humidity now that you’re moving here. Logic would follow that one should avoid doing the same on Facebook, where one of those losing candidates could very well be on your friends list. That’s not to say that anyone who posts a such an update is being insensitive. It can be easy to get caught up in the adrenaline of a big moment, and even easier to feel as though Facebook comprises solely of the people you usually interact with on Facebook. But, the reality is that your post could go anywhere. It could be viewed by people you are not friends with if a mutual friend likes, loves, wows or reacts to it with any of the other emoticons. It could even be seen by the committee chairman who actually wanted to give the job to someone else but relented to the the other members who angled for you. Could such a scenario lose you the position? Unlikely, but it’s not great optics.
You also want to keep in mind that your new situation may not turn out to be so rosy. An enthused update won’t age well if you end up resigning your job five months in. And sometimes the plummet from success can happen even quicker. More than once, I’ve seen someone post that they got some prestigious offer, only to discover there was a mistake or misunderstanding and it’s a no-go after all. That’s probably not something you want to share with your two thousand Facebook friends.
Okay, so we know that sounding the sirens is probably not the way to go, but staying mum is also counterproductive. So what’s the middle ground? My conclusion would be to only post what is necessary to post. Your followers only really need to know that you’re moving to city X to start a position at orchestra Y. They don’t need to know all of the different emotions you’re feeling (it’s assumed you’re happy about it), how much you appreciate your teachers (why not just send your teachers a personal message?), or your dread of your new climate (which could be well-intentioned, but potentially misread as “the only problem in my life now is that I have to dig out my winter coat”). Something simple, straightforward, and to the point is sufficient. In fact, you don’t even need to post an actual status update. If you update your “about” section on Facebook, it will show up in newsfeeds and convey the same information as a “life update” status. Then people will feel more like they’re reading the alumni newsletter and less like you’ve set up camp in their front yard with a megaphone. Less isn’t always more, but it seems to be true in this case.
Zachary Preucil is on the cello faculty at the Music Institute of Chicago, and is active as a performer throughout the Chicago area. He has blogged for Polyphonic.org, the Credo Music Festival, and the Huffington Post, and served for two years as co-editor of “The Penguin”, New England Conservatory’s student-run newspaper. Along with flutist Elizabeth Erenberg, he is a co-founder of Musicovation.com, a web-based business offering marketing and media services for musicians. Zachary received his M.M. in Cello Performance and an Arts Leadership Certificate from the Eastman School of Music and B.M. in Cello Performance from the New England Conservatory.