Recently, a bulletin board I participate on had a thread that really made me think. A colleague posted a copy of an email she’d received from a third colleague. The email was basically an introduction, a brief explanation of the therapist’s practice, and concluded with an invitation to visit her website and hoping to receive referrals. The string of comments that ensued were mostly, although not completely, negative. But I was struck by how openly critical many of the folks who replied were. And what was even more striking than people referring to the email as unprofessional was how quickly several of these professionals began to say hurtful and insulting things to each other. Personally I always applaud emails like the one in question, as I think it takes guts to self-promote, but I accept that other people have variations in opinion. What I had a harder time accepting is the negative quality of the discussion.
A related incident occurred over the past few weeks with my blog. A colleague began emailing me after each blog pointing out typos or grammatical errors. I was a bit surprised, but at least she was taking the time to read it. The last email was a bit more frustrating, in that she started the email criticizing my latest post and then asked for free consultation! Still, I replied with a brief and polite answer to her question. I wasn’t expecting a thank you or anything, but I was really surprised at what happened next. When I posted a note to a listserv I am on with a link to my next blog post, which said, “You may find this blog post of interest,” she posted to the listserv saying simply, “No Mike.”
I tell you these two incidents to remind you that every time you post anything with colleagues you are also building your online presence. Everything we read tells us something about you. If you post something sarcastic you let us know that you are sarcastic. If you post something clinically astute we know you are clinically astute. When you post an article link you tell us that you are keeping abreast of research, as well as your areas of interest. When you post online about a patient you tell us that you talk about your patients online. And when you don’t play well with others you tell us about how it might be to collaborate with you on a case.
If you are mindful of this and are doing things the way that is in keeping with your professional style and identity, great. There are lots of different ways to be in the world. My point is to make sure you are mindful about how you are presenting yourself, because your online presence is everything out here!
Sometimes I get the impression that the same sense of narcissistic invulnerability we acquire when we get behind the wheel of our car happens when we get online. We feel protected by a sense of anonymity and the asynchronous communication. We say things that we might never say to the colleague’s face if we were in the same room. We sacrifice sensitivity for the opportunity to seem witty or clever in front of our peers, even if it hurts someone. We forget there are people behind the screens, or we decide we don’t care. I am sure I have done it too, nobody is perfect. But please think about what you are doing, because it can be really detrimental to building your business.
Take a look at the last 5 posts you made out here in Web 2.0. What do they say about you? If they were the only things a potential colleague or patient knew about you what might they think? How do you want to be remembered?