Not so long ago, when people punched out and went home for the day they were done worrying about their professional image. They were free to relax with friends, and even get a little... Crazy. This does not hold true today. In an era where competition is as fierce as ever, my generation does not only need to worry about getting into the best schools, having the best grades or even landing the perfect internship. Instead, many are worrying about their online presence and how it may be affecting their current job and job search.

With everyone Facebooking and Twittering the social media space does not only belong to a circle of close friends. For many it is not uncommon for an aunt, uncle or even parent to be part of their social network. Furthermore, many people are "friending" colleagues.

I am a big fan of social media, but I must admit that sometimes I yearn for the days where the only harm an unflattering picture could cause is a mild humiliation in class on Monday.

Today I manage five to six different social media accounts. Not only do I try to make sure all of these online spaces are kept current, but I also worry about the messages I send out. Would my coworkers and family approve of my Facebook status? What about that last tweet? There's no complaining about work or the company when one of your friends is a V.P. Is it ok to decline a coworkers friend request? And, how much is too much, or not enough? If I don't tweet everyday will I be considered out of the loop? If I tweet 10 times a day will people think I'm neurotic?

The hardest and greatest part about social media is there are no rules. There aren't even many social norms. What is appropriate and what's not is completely up to the person and their social network.

On either side of this debate are two, I think, valid arguments. The first is that the Internet is a public space, and if a person is leary about some of their "extra curriculars" they should think twice before posting online. The second deals with the right to privacy. I think it's safe to say that most social media web sites allow the user to play around with their own privacy settings. For instance, I block all of those who I have formed professional relationships with from viewing my photos on Facebook. To all my professional friends it's nothing personal, but as I try to brand myself online I don't want you looking at photos from my latest Saturday night at the bar.

Which brings me to my main question. Is there a way to enjoy all social media has to offer without compromising yourself? Is it possible to keep parts of your private life private online? If we remain professional it can take much of the fun out of social media. If we strip our Facebook profiles to look like nondescript paper cutouts we are left with little sense of authenticity and character.

Is there a solution? A way to have fun with social media while not scaring away potential clients and job offers? What about creating two online persona's? One with an alias to be used with close friends and another to be used for business?

Right now I am debating whether or not to post this to my Twitter and Facebook account. How will my colleagues react when they see my hesitation towards sharing my whole self with them online? I guess I'll have to wait and see. Until then, how do you manage your professional and private lives online?

2 comments:

It's like you read my mind sometimes. You are one of the few people in my life who understands the complexity and seriousness of such a debate and what it means for our industry.

January 13, 2009 at 3:17 PM  

As a colleague and director at the agency, I'm compelled to comment. I completely understand your concern and it's a valid one. I'll admit I struggled with seeing the staff facebook activity when I first joined, but I also believe it's important for us as marketers to be active users of social media. I encourage it and believe an employee should be judged on the work they do and not their online personality.

That said, I think you can attempt to keep your online personalities separate if you like, but I would encourage you to consider keeping them together. Sure, you may need to manage some user preferences and think twice before you post, but nothing is really private anymore once it hits the web. I think its' better to be true to yourself, share your online personal brand, and perhaps be smart about what goes on the world wide web. Hope you don't mind the 30, almost 40-something opinion. You have a great blog and online presence and it should be seen by more than known friends. Keep up the good work.

Disclaimer: These opinions are my own and may not be representative of the agency at large, although I'm definately making my opinions known. ;)

January 13, 2009 at 9:38 PM  

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