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Monday, August 2, 2010

Social Media: Are We All Frauds?

I had a discussion the other night regarding the challenge in maintaining a social network persona that's acceptable to friends and family - and also work associates.  The traditional boundaries, it seems, have been blurred.  Is it possible, practically speaking, to maintain a Facebook profile, and not accept friend requests from everyday work associates?  With the "People You May Know" feature, the possibility of friending some but not others in the same work environment isn't feasible without causing potential friction in the workplace. 

Some people in jobs with sensitive privacy or security issues, as was the case with the individual with whom I was speaking, are compelled to remove themselves from the social networking environment - in some cases, they're forbidden from participating.   For others however, the idea of  a professional ignoring the social networking environment will soon prove extremely difficult and perhaps damaging in terms of career development.

I think most users of social media tend to find a middle ground, sharing information with a constant awareness of their mixed personal network - and constantly honing a personal brand that serves both work colleagues, friends and family.  Finding the limits of TMI - Too Much Information - is tricky.

In my case, while I might share some past and present family photos, I don't tend to broadcast family news on Facebook precisely because I recognize my audience includes colleagues.  Some Facebook friends include detailed family updates and expressions of their every passion and outrage.  I know more about the lives of vague childhood friends than some of my own family.  Others share details of bad work days or difficult colleagues to an extent that makes me wonder if they've thought through the possible consequences.

Are there compromises in creating a universal personal brand?  Does your online persona - from Facebook to YouTube to Twitter and beyond - reflect your personal reality?  Are we all frauds? Or have we simply been given the tools to present ourselves more accurately to the world at large?


  1. Excellent points! These are definitely things I've struggled with. Facebook has been a great way to reconnect with people I haven't talked to in years. However, as a psychologist, I also have to be careful about what I say and protecting my privacy. I've already had patients say they looked me up, and this can create professional boundary problems. I'm not sure there's a clear answer balancing everything.

  2. I think what we have to each learn for ourselves is that, although we may be typing these things sitting around in our underwear in the privacy of our own homes, the forums they're posted on is not our own homes; it is a public space.

    Would you rant loudly about the idiot at the next desk at work while at the pub down the block from your office? If it's where the other people from your work go, then a smart person who wants to keep their job would save that rant till they got home.

    If you always consider that facebook (etc) is the corner pub, where all your work associates and neighbors hang out, you'll behave properly, just as your mother told you to in public.

    It's not fraud or fakery. It's manners and common sense. And lesson we each need to learn the hard way for ourselves.

  3. I love the corner pub metaphor - though, as we know, some people are clueless, as far as knowing HOW to behave properly. I do get your point, however.

    Common sense...well, that's worth another blog...

  4. What happens, or is said, on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc, stays there.
    Don't say anything you wouldn't want that person to hear. Like i said in my own blog post the other day. Say it to my face, or don't say it at all.

    The other point about being a fraud is something i've been toying with myself recently. I've already recorded one vlog, touching on the topic. But, i'm going to record it again, because i want to combine it with other thoughts.