I’m periodically fascinated by how people view online life, and the differences in the boundaries that they set (or perceive) on the internet, versus that “other” life with the blue ceiling and the third dimension.
My curiosity was piqued again this weekend when one of my posts here attracted a totally unrelated comment asking a Flickr support question.
I’m astounded that someone managed to take a path from my recent occasional stints helping out on Flickr’s support forum, all the way to this place which (save for occasional posts where my personal interests or life experiences overlap with work) is totally unrelated to my place of employment.
I can very well imagine the route they took – they saw my posts on the forum, followed them to my profile, and followed the link from there to here before posting. But…
…To me, such an action is the online equivalent of visiting a local store, and rather than resolving an issue at the “Customer Service” desk, instead following a store employee home, knocking on their door and asking for resolution of your issue then and there.
The two simply aren’t connected, and making them so leaves me feeling a little unsettled. Yes, I work as an engineer for a popular website, and yes, I occasionally pitch in to help with people’s concerns and worries, especially when my fellow Flickr-ers are out of commission for one reason or another.
But… that’s my day job. When I come home (or post on hitherto.net), I really don’t want my work life to follow me there.
I feel the same way, incidentally, about my Flickr stream – even though I work on the site, I don’t expect people to take my personal little corner of it and attempt to vent their frustration or seek a resolution through it (any more than I’d expect them to come to the office in person and berate me in the break room).
It’s very easy to see online entities as impersonal “machines” – many sites have even cultivated that image, seemingly as a way to streamline their customer interactions into manageable processes. Flickr has, in fact, tried to avoid that where possible – most of the staff still pitch in and try to offer assistance on the site’s forum, and we try to be polite and efficiently helpful whilst injecting a little humour and personality into the mix.
So, a quick plea to the world in general – when you’re seeking assistance online, please do try to apply the same boundaries to your interactions as you would in real life. Otherwise, you’re going to trigger a quick blog post and very little else in response.
The “Penguins Only” photo on this post is from QuestingBeast on Flickr.