in Social Networking

Online personas and authenticity

At #tweetwyo last night, we got into a pretty vibrant discussion about whether filtering web content was somehow masking who you really are. The consensus was that there’s a place for professional decorum, even on the internet and a place for personal information.

I think it’s an even bigger issue than just a matter of personal v. private decorum. It’s about nuance and information sharing. It really depends on what purpose the social web serves for you. For many of us who have connections to higher ed, we’re often attached to more than one profile and it’s another reason to be conscientious of our audiences. Even if you’re speaking for “yourself” there are people who will quote you on the name of your institution or job. “Bob of New York Widgets says that he hates New York.” Injuring the corporate brand is an inherent risk.

“Should personal content on a personal profile really be used in a punitative way in a professional setting?” If your boss reads your Facebook profile, should it be able to get you fired? If you tweet a message about something, should it result in a public flogging all over the web?

Most agree that it probably shouldn’t. But it doesn’t matter. People still take things out of context personally. If a blog post can even be construed as being negative or directed at someone, the mea culpas will have to be distributed, sometimes “just in case.”

So what do you about? Is separating your professional and personal life inauthentic?

No. It’s a survival tactic in a world where not everyone knows you. While it can be empowering to blog all of your feelings in the off chance that someone, somewhere will read about it and care, it’s a risky move.

For me, Twitter is about networking. LinkedIn has a networking component, though the bar is set a bit higher and Facebook is for people I have existing relationships with and even that’s on a case-by-case basis. The lines are far too blurred and all you need is something to happen.

The key to social networking is realizing that 1) you’re not alone and 2) nothing is private.

  1. Agreed. It becomes a question of how to do it and once we do it, evaluating whether it really serves our purpose or not. I know I wonder about this a lot.

  2. Important topic. Although we’re getting there slowly, it’s amazing to me that the various platforms (that you named above) aren’t providing anything even remotely adequate for organizing and separating personal and professional networks. Sometimes we want to integrate these realms – carefully – and that’s even more difficult.

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