still trying to make sense of it all; but promised to write a blog entry about the incident.
As posted to my Facebook profile last Thursday, via Twitter, I "learned a very hard lesson today: never, ever trust anyone. That includes "friends."
When I joined Facebook last Spring (as a way to see photos of a dear friend's new baby boy), I determined to use the service for pure social reasons: reconnecting with old friends from high school; staying in touch with friends who are geographically distant; keeping up with the local social scene; sharing photos and quick updates with family near and far; etc.,.
I work in a field that all but requires socializing with colleagues. Politics is built on a foundation of personal relationships and connections, and the line between "colleague" and "friend" is faint and distorted. Still, as my "friend" list expanded to include friends who are also work colleagues, I adjusted my privacy settings to allow only limited access to people who work within the legislative process - with very few exceptions.
Further, I blocked all Members who requested "friendship" through Facebook. While I socialize with many of my fellow aides and many lobbyist peers, "socializing" with Members - especially via a social networking website - is dangerous territory. In fifteen years of work in politics, I have learned "Members are not your friends." Period.So, now, back to last Thursday. I posted (via Twitter) a status update that was critical of an Office in the Florida House, for good reason. Said Office is designed to provide clear, concise, accurate information about pending (or enacted) legislation to Member offices (and the public, the media, whoever...). Quickly.
However, when I called Said Office, identified myself as the aide to Representative So-and-So (information they should know, by the way...just sayin'...) to request information for responding to a constituent inquiry, I got the exact opposite of the service Said Office is supposed to provide. This is a pattern. Said Office is, as I stated in my status update, useless.
The five-word status update (posted during a break using my personal crackberry) did not name any names and did not include any detail. Ahem.
Somehow, despite the fact that my legislative "friends" are prohibited from seeing any status updates and links on my profile, that update made its way to the Honcho of Said Office who approached my boss...on the floor of the House...and raised hell. My boss directed me to remove the post, which I did.
This incident left me disturbed, upset, confused, mad, indignant and scared...on many levels:
- That someone I consider a friend, not a "friend" or just a colleague, would throw me under the bus. I do not know who I can trust anymore.
- That the Honcho would be so thin-skinned about something I (a minion) said, especially since the comment wasn't even about the Honcho. Politics is brutal and surely my comment is not the worst criticism ever received - either directly or indirectly. Maybe the Honcho is in the wrong biz?
- That the Honcho took up the cause of gossip (in the manner of true statesmanship) and immediately sorted to "defensive" and beating down the subversive instead of going to the root of the problem.
- That freedom of expression is a guaranteed right in our democracy and I did not waive that right when I started my career in legislative politics. I'm afraid that personal censure is now part of the lexicon of politics in Florida. Don't dare to criticize the powers-that-be.
Should I have been so reckless in trusting privacy settings on the internet? Probably not. But, I learned that I should not be reckless in trusting my friends.