When I created my first Facebook account it was because a friend living in Brazil asked me to do so. She explained it would be easier for her to communicate with me and her other friends, given her limited Internet time. I sighed and created the account. Then I promptly ignored it. I will admit to being a person who didn’t get it. I said, as many do, “who cares what I had for breakfast?”
Next thing I knew people from my family and people from my past were sending friend requests. I slowly began to get it. Facebook made it easier for me to see basic information about what was occurring in people’s lives. Now I was communicating with people I had been neglecting. Now I could see pictures of my young relatives; get a chance to watch them grow up. I found it a rather warm and fuzzy experience, well, as warm and fuzzy as I get.
Next I began to get involved in running my organization’s Facebook page. It was my idea to take on this project, and yet it concerned me. Though I didn’t post anything particularly personal on my Facebook wall, I didn’t really want my personal and professional lives to collide. As a result, I broke the rules (§4.2) and created a second Facebook account for my professional life.
Facebook quickly became an important presence in my life. Not so much for personal reasons as professional. And yet, of course, my family and friends did expect me to be responsive on my personal Facebook page, even if all I did was click “like,” and I enjoyed the pictures and updates. I found myself logging out of one account and logging into another. This quickly became irritating, and yet I was still concerned about combining my accounts. From time to time I thought, “this is silly, I should combine my accounts.” And then I would think, “no, I will not! My personal and professional must stay separate!”
Well, I have finally cried uncle. This week I began the process of combining my accounts; moving all of my “real life” friends and family (about 110 people) into my professional account (about 500 people.) I am doing this slowly because it seems that Facebook gets a bit concerned if it sees you adding too many friends at once. Perhaps it thinks you must be a spammer or some such. I announced to my friends and family what I was doing and so far the process has gone smoothly, though Facebook doesn’t make it easy. I suppose that is because you aren’t supposed to have more than one account in the first place. Only one person needed a warning to behave, and she actually warned herself; I simply strongly agreed.
The reality is that I don’t post anything on Facebook that can’t be shared with pretty much anyone. Good thing too, since managing two Facebook accounts, two twitter accounts (one for me, one for my org), several professional pages (for my org) and now a blog has simply become too much. I have come to realize it is very difficult to manage separate personal and professional identities on line. Especially since a lot of my professional contacts are quickly becoming real friends.
The real risk is what others might post. If someone posts something I find offensive or embarrassing on my Facebook wall I can simply delete it. If s/he posts it on his or her Wall I cannot, but the result is the same and I would simply ask the person to remove it. That lack of control is the same in a professional or a personal account, or really anywhere on line.
The feeling is odd. I have gone, very quickly, from having almost no online presence to being relatively easy to find. It used to be when I taught a course on Web research I could show people that my name is so common it would take a lot of extra work to find me. Not the case any more, it. This is both a good thing and a bad thing, I imagine. Since I want to do more Consulting people need to be able to find me. I have also learned through my social media experiences that knowing about a person both personally and professionally makes people more comfortable when it comes to working with her. On the other hand, I am a rather private person. Of course, in the end, I still control what I post, and I will continue to be mindful of what I put online.
When did this happen, I wonder? This merging of professional and personal to such a degree? I don’t know, but I can tell you this, I am breathing a sign of relief that things are at least a little bit easier for me now. The privacy? Well, as the saying goes, “you have no privacy, get over it.”
I guess I am starting to get over it. How about you?