Some Thoughts on Social Media and Work

My head is pretty full this morning after a full day’s training session yesterday, it turns out selling Christmas trees is waaay more complicated than we knew, but before I start the next group of posts on this job, I feel like I need to take a moment, step back, and talk about some of the challenges about talking about work in social media.

There are many ways full-time RVers make money on the road, but it’s been tough for us to find a lot of specifics when researching the jobs prior to taking them.  For that reason, along with the fact that this blog it’s a journal about my life, I try to be as honest as I possibly can about these jobs we are taking.  But I do feel I need to balance my desire to share with respecting the rights of the employers I have. The employers are often family owned small businesses and have spent years building their brands.  They may also have proprietary processes and business models that deserve protection.  We ran into this a little while camp hosting, more while at the beet harvest, and I can see it will be much more with Christmas Trees.  My challenge will be to accurately represent the experience as a full timer who is trying to generate revenue on the road, while being fair to the folks on the other end of the equation.  This is not an easy balance.

It’s been suggested that I write about the experience and then wait until the end and post what happened, but after serious consideration I have rejected that approach for me.  Capturing what happens in the moment is important, and frankly I don’t trust myself not to go back and apply some revisionist history if I waited until the end.  Plus, if anything I write causes a concern I think the other people in the equation should have the opportunity to address it in real time.  So that leaves me with being extremely careful when it comes to anything negative.  The positives are generally easy.  Most everyone likes to hear good stuff about themselves, but talking about challenges in a constructive way can be…well, challenging.  I also draw the line about talking about anything purely personal when it comes to my employers or people I work with.  The only time I stray across that line is when people have interesting stories relating to the lifestyle and occasionally I share those in as generic a way as possible.   Most of the newer full timers don’t seem to care.  Many of them have blogs and are used to sharing their experiences, but I am meeting so many people who have been full-timing for 6 or more years who became full timers prior to all of this social media.  For example, I met this woman Kate who has been on the road since 2006  and she was talking about how when she started she would have to print her Google maps and use the printed copy to navigate.  I remember doing that for work trips, but until she mentioned it I truly had forgotten that we used to have to do that.

So where that leaves me is looking at every situation and trying to capture the experience without crossing my personal ethical lines.  It’s tough and Lee helps me by reading every post and providing me with a second opinion.  Of course he is all about the First Amendment so his lines aren’t always where mine are, but he’s also a really good guy and neither one of us is looking to hurt anyone here.  I write this blog first as a way to help me process all the changes in my life, and secondly to help others who may be going through the same things.  As I have said before, I write the blog I wish I could have read prior to becoming a full timer. What I didn’t understand when I started this is I can’t just throw up on the page.  If this was a personal journal that only I would read, sure, I could do that, but it is not.  There are real people on the other end of these stories and they will probably have feelings about what is written.

All of that being said, sometimes thing happen and I feel compelled to write about them.  I can’t let them go and need to find a way to put them down on the page.  Occasionally I write them out and then delete them myself.  Other times I have friends read them and get their reaction, and on a few occasions have deleted entire posts because I just couldn’t find a way to express what I was feeling in a way that would be understood.  Usually though, with help, I find a way to talk about challenging situations, but it’s not always easy for sure.  And sometimes I just flat out get it wrong. While at the beet harvest that happened and for the first time I think, I really understood what could happen.

We were pretty frustrated with some night shift members at the beet harvest and after one particularly bad day had a mini rant about the situation.  We didn’t use anyone’s name specifically, and nothing we wrote wasn’t true (heck we had pictures to prove our point), but one of the night shift team members found our blog, and shared it with others and needless to say several people were extremely unhappy.  Honestly it never in a million years occurred to me any of those kids would ever read my blog.  I have a pretty specific audience, and it’s mostly full timers, people who want to be full timers, or our family.  But the internet is an interesting thing and I came up in a random Google search and the kids started reading.  Lee’s initial take was “If it doesn’t apply to them, then they shouldn’t worry about it.”, but a couple of people were really upset.  So upset that they went to the managers, who then had to come to me and talk to me about my blog.  So picture this, I am standing in a piler yard, six hours into a 12 hour shift, and I get a “talking to” about what I wrote on social media.  Initially I was absolutely horrified.  The old “corporate-minded” me’s immediate response was to say “I’ll take it down immediately and I am so sorry.” But the new me, the somewhat free-spirited traveler me felt very differently.  For lack of a better way to explain, this blog has become my artistic expression. I have spent hundreds of hours pouring myself into these pages and it matters way more than I ever thought it would.  In that moment, for the first time in my life, something I had created mattered more to me than a job and I felt fiercely protective of it.

The strength of those feelings caught me completely off guard, but thankfully I have a lifetime of corporate experience in hiding emotions to fall back on.  I spent the next several hours processing beets, while simultaneously working through what I was feeling.  I called a fellow blogger and asked his advice, I talked to Lee, and I chewed on it.  Where was my line? Was this a hill I was willing to die on? What did it all matter? were a few of the many questions swirling around in my head.  My final decision had very little to do with the possible legal ramifications (although that was scary to consider), less to do with the financial repercussions than I thought, and was almost solely based on what I personally felt was the right thing to do in that particular situation. That may sound like a small thing, but for me it was not.  I spent many, many years making decisions based on what was legal and what would save/strengthen my job and protect my income which was necessary to provide for my family.  I just barely managed to hold the line ethically all those years, but I had to do many things that were personally distasteful to survive and thrive in a corporate environment.  For example, I spent two years completing efficiency studies and making recommendations on which employees should be fired. Those were not good years.  So here I was, again harvesting beets, and having an inner war between my old self and my new self.  Where I landed ultimately was we would remove the somewhat harsh language from that particular post, but everything else would stay. That was my line, and I was prepared for the first time in my life to be fired over it if necessary.

Thankfully, after some discussion, the employers accepted the compromise and we moved on.  Whether or not the business relationship was damaged beyond repair, I really have no way of knowing.  I do know that it marred the experience and certainly it probably put me in the category of an employee who had caused a problem, and I have a lifetime of experience not being that person.  So with that experience fresh in my mind, and entering a new work experience, I am feeling somewhat cautious.  I owe it to myself and all of you who read this to accurately portray the experience, but I absolutely don’t want to be in that situation again if it can be avoided.  I am a pretty middle of the road kind of person.  I don’t have big causes, I rarely get worked up over big picture things, and generally I have an optimistic view that given the opportunity people will do the right thing and everything will eventually work out OK.  It makes Lee crazy sometimes.  But I do care about this.  I think becoming a full timer is a major life decision and I believe people should have as much solid information as possible when making that decision.  I also know I in no way represent all of the myriad diversity this lifestyle offers.   We are simply one story, and one voice, but I do want that voice to be as truthful as possible.  I owe myself that and I owe you that.  Just please understand as you read this blog that I am living this life as I write about it and some things I will choose to keep private. Actually you probably all know that.  I think I am more giving myself permission than asking for it.

So why did I write this?  For two reasons.  First, it was a pretty significant event in my life and I write about those now.  I was going to completely skip this subject, but it ended up being one of those things I felt compelled to write about.  Secondly, just in case anyone is reading this and thinking this blog is 100% the objective truth on a subject,  it is not.  It is my personal perspective of events and it is not all inclusive of even my own experience.  I do leave things out.  Sometimes because they are not interesting or relevant, sometimes because I just can’t find the right way to say it, and often because it is simply my story to tell.  With work related posts, I also may not provide certain details because it is proprietary information.  I am sure this is similar to what most bloggers do, but I needed to say it out loud at least.

Update:  I did not receive the $250 bonus from the beet harvest.  Lee did, which is ironic, since his original comments were the ones that caused this whole thing to start. When I called Express Employment to find out why they stated their were no notes in the comments section.  When I asked if I was on a do not rehire list I was told that list would not be available until August.  So there was a price to be paid.  Less of one than I originally thought there would be, but $250 isn’t chump change.  Would I do it again.  Yes, with two exceptions.  I would not have published the specifics of the employee interaction and I would not have tagged Sidney Sugar on the posts until the job was complete.  Going forward this will be my tactic and although I am not crazy about not tagging the company upfront, this is my compromise to minimize the chances of something like this happening again.  Since we have our website on our rig, there is always a chance people will find these blogs of course, and for that reason I will need to be very generic when talking about the experience as it relates to other people. 

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