After an incident where a complaint has been submitted against my private social media profile by students (with whom I had no interaction, nor were my posts directed towards) I felt attacked in a way I didn't feel before. Since my research is the most valuable thing to me in my life, I decided that my reaction will be to shut down all of my social media interactions and kept quiet for the past half a year. I am considering the cons of reopening my social media accounts and would love some input.
When closing my accounts, what scared me the most was the idea that a part of my life that has nothing to do with research, would interrupt my academic reputation, which is hard enough to build on its own as you all know. Weighing out the different possible outcomes, I felt like I prefer focusing on my research than being the Rosa Parks of crazy posting online.
Things became most awkward when at some point, I felt like I was forced to explain myself to faculty who come from a different generation, with different perception of the nuances of social behavior now days, which is already a stereotypical issue in the field I come from to begin with. This made me very frustrated. I found it very uncomfortable when I tried to explain the situation to some professor whom these students approached in order to file an official complaint against me, and this Professor didn't even want to hear me out. Although our relationship has normalized since, I figured out that the more provocative social media interaction I take part in, the more I would find myself in the position of needing to explain myself to people without some necessary background or motivation to understand where I am coming from. This has led me to stop all of my social media interactions immediately after "the incident".
My advisor, which I absolutely adore, both as a researcher and as a human being, has advised me strongly against engaging in social media in any form since. He told me that time and time again he has seen people suffering from negative effects on their careers, and that it is not worth it. However, I do not feel like he necessarily knows all of the aspects in which I gain value out of participating in social media interaction, and besides, I should have the right to live my own private life outside the academia. My advisor says that as a T.A. in a university I am "half a public figure" and this forces me to some unspoken social code of behavior. However, I am not sure I am very fond of that unspoken social code. I understand why it is absolutely important to be sensitive and politically correct within the confines of the classroom, and when interacting with peers, students and superiors, but where is it said that choosing a research career implies that I must be PG13 within the confines of my own social life? Would you feel like you would personally want to opt out of having research interactions with someone that has a provocative YouTube channel or Twitter accounts? Do you feel that it is necessary for me to suppress my desire to express myself creatively online in favor of an academic career?
It should be mentioned that the faculty has revoked the complaint against me and has told me that their official response is that it is not anybody else's business what I do online. However, I do feel like there is room for extra care in such a gray area topic. I am curious to hear your thoughts on this quite personal contemplation.