The question came across Twitter this weekend about social media identity, specifically mixing the personal with the professional. Should we keep them separate? How much should we put out there? Who should we let see it?
There are no manuals for such aspects of a 21st-century world, and the rules to a degree keep shifting. But it’s a sufficiently compelling topic that I at least wanted to start a discussion.
My thoughts are that, if you’re dedicated to social media, the personal and the professional necessarily overlap in some places — like a Venn diagram (above) — to show the real you. Your presence in blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other Web 2.0 platforms is different aspects of who you are. Perhaps only as much you as you want to show, but my favorite social media people show real personality. Real dilemmas, real concerns, real victories (however small) = really interesting. I find fairly useless those who only retweet (RT) others’ posts or self-styled experts/gurus who mainly regurgitate links, articles and platitudes. If a person doesn’t have a life beyond scouring the Internet, imho, their advice doesn’t have any real-world value — just as I wouldn’t trust someone who only watches TV talk shows to give me relationship advice.
Facebook, being the most popular among people I know, remains a prickly pear for some. But you do know you can limit the content you show to the world and even your friends, right? This neat blog post from Jessica Krywosa tells you more. I recently had two people ask to have their photos removed from a Fans page. The main reason? Because they were, you know, on Facebook! That evil Facebook!
But the most thorny issue deals with friend requests. Even with limitations, your friends can still see a lot of your life, and that I’m Facebook friends with our college president means I will never feel safe using the status line Tim Nekritz shot a man in Reno just to watch him die. But I do get friend requests from students and, recently, even prospective students. What do you do when that happens?
Everyone would handle it differently. Since I champion social media, I would feel like a hypocrite to refuse an earnest requested friendship, so I friend students back. I even approved friend requests from two prospective students — who seem to be friending everyone at their future alma mater — after they saw me put a helpful post on a group forum. Again, if I value social media as a communication form with prospective students, how could I do otherwise?
I should note, however, that I don’t put out friend requests to current students first (with the exception of my intern, because I was asking her to help maintain a Fans page). The reason is that I’m still most comfortable if a student wants to start a social-media interaction with me, not vice versa.
I’ll leave it there for now, because I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.