I hate to tell you this, but we’re not really friends.
OK, we might be friends, some of us. And I would hope that those of you who are actual friends know who you are. But simply because we’re connected on a social network, or because you follow me on Twitter does not mean that you are allowed into all that I consider private in my life.
This has been a challenge for bloggers from day one, and while there’s a lot of content that I share as a person with a big online footprint, there’s a lot of stuff you don’t get to know. For everyone, there must be some content considered personal and therefore private. Define for yourself where that line is and draw it in permanent Sharpie.
My friend Waldo (and yes, we’re actual real life friends) manages his network like this: his Twitter feed is protected and plays host to a conversation he has with a select group of people (mostly programmers); his Facebook friends are actual friends — don’t try to friend him if you aren’t actually friends — you will be disappointed. As Waldo said recently, “I’m not a collectible.” (Although personally I think I’d like to have a Waldo bobblehead in my collection, but that’s a different matter altogether.)
The point is this: the decision to separate your personal and professional lives is a PERSONAL one but you must make it.
Here’s how I manage the professional vs. the private in my online profile:
- I don’t accept LinkedIn connections to people I have not met and have no reference or context to place them in my social network.
- I only follow people who have interesting content to share on Twitter. I unfollow if your content bothers me in some way, or if you have too little to say. I use a tool called UnTweeps to efficiently cull through the dead weight in my Twitter account from time to time.
- I don’t post anything I don’t want you to know. That seems simple enough, but if it’s none of your business, I have no business posting it online.
- I do post personal content in my professional space occasionally. I am me, across all platforms, so the people with whom I do business know that I like to bake pie; likewise my friends know what it is I do for a living.
- In Facebook, I am a creator and user of lists — if we don’t really know one another well, if we’re acquaintances or we used to know one another long ago, you’re in a list that has limited access to my content. I have a very short list of people (I’ve named it “homies” for the way that sounds when I am speaking to a crowd on this topic) of super close friends and family. I will use this list to communicate the insider information about our family and life. Generally though, that information will be delivered in person or on the phone.
- If you get stalker-ish and take advantage of an assumed relationship, if you make demands or get snarky and we’ve never even met or had a live conversation, you may be blocked from my content. Life is too short and bullies were cut out of my life as long ago as third grade. Move along and find someone to connect to that is interested in maintaining a relationship with you.
What about you? Are there unique ways you have found to keep the two halves of your life separate?