I spent a good portion of Thursday afternoon at #140conf – The 140 Character Conference, investigating the state of NOW, related to our good friend Twitter. The event was part of Digital Capital Week, a series of conferences, awards, meetings-of-the-minds and other fantastic gatherings.
Event founder Jeff Pulver is a terrific example of the best there is in social media. He is candid about how social media has been a positive force in his life and, as the starter of a movement, he is making a tremendous impact in the world.
The Social Media Dress Code
I am not an easily offended person. Outside of insulting my wife and dog, not much will rattle me.
However, a trend emerged from #140conf that really got to me.
This was a conference aimed towards professionals in the communications industry, educating them on the value of Twitter as a marketing, communications, teaching, crisis management, entertainment and charitable tool.
Most every presenter was dressed to impress in the professional world, with suits and/or appropriate business casual wear.
However, several male speakers went on stage wearing, no joke, shorts, t-shirts and sandals. They were among the social media career folks, not professionals who worked into the social media realm from other segments.
As someone with “Social Media” on my business card, as someone who joined the social media world following a career in mainstream PR, as someone who takes pride in working in the most fun, social, interactive industry on the planet, I was offended and embarrassed.
I’m sure you’ve heard the common perceptions about social media folks – anti-social (ironically), living in basements, doing something a kid could do.
At it’s core, social media is about communication. Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, they are all tools that will go away at some point. Knowing how to use those tools is great, but that doesn’t make you a communications pro. A carpenter is known for getting the job done, not which saw he uses. Communications is the same thing – a skilled trade.
I was offended because by dressing like slovenly slobs, these presenters are perpetuating the stereotype of the industry I love instead of using their forum to make things better. I was offended because no matter what they said in their presentation, I had trouble taking them seriously. I spent time away from my office to gain insight from “thought leaders” only to find out they dressed like college sophomores after a long night partying.
We are an industry of creative, innovative, active, social professionals. As an emerging communications segment, we have the responsibility to represent ourselves properly.
I’m not 30 yet, but feel much older when I say this: If I am going to spend my day listening to what you have to say in a professional setting, put some damn pants on.
My questions (to the #u30pro crowd and up!) are thus: Am I overreacting? Is dress code really all that important in our industry? And if so, what should the standard be?