Software // Information Management
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12/16/2008
11:16 AM
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Who Am I Now? Matching Your Persona To The Medium

The rules of social networking get hazy when your business and personal lives intersect online.

The rules of social networking get hazy when your business and personal lives intersect online.I posted a poop joke on my Facebook profile awhile back. I did it quickly and without reflection. It was the kind of joke my friends or family might toss around in casual conversation, and what is Facebook if not an attenuated chat among friends?

Then I remembered I have professional contacts on Facebook as well, both within the company I work for and outside it.

I assumed that the professional contacts I've connected with on Facebook understand that when I communicate on that site, I'm doing so as a private person. I'm trusting their professionalism to separate the lame jokes, silly photos, and other dopey clutter that appears on my profile from me as a business colleague.

But is this a safe assumption? Was it mistaken of me to accept friend requests from coworkers and colleagues? Do I have to start censoring my private persona? We all know some people have boundary issues, and will either take offense or be offensive when borders aren't clearly defined. What are the rules here?

I started on Twitter a couple of weeks ago, and I've decided to set my own boundaries. My ID is clearly associated with InformationWeek (InfoWeek_Andrew, if you're interested), and so I'm going to restrict my tweets to work-related issues, with the occasional joke or comment that I'd be comfortable making during a business meeting or at an industry event.

But I have no interest in going back to Facebook to set up two different personas. I'm going to have to trust that others acknowledge the blurry boundaries that exist online, and cut me some slack if they read something on Facebook they don't like. We'll see how it goes.

I'd like to hear from our readers about how they are wrestling with this. Am I right in thinking that most reasonable people can separate someone's personal and professional identities? Are companies worried about this issue? Is anyone's employer issuing guidelines about social networking, both personal and professional? What are your own rules when it comes to your different online personae?

And here's a discussion topic for extra credit: Are Twitter, Facebook, et al, even appropriate venues for business communication? It's inevitable that relentless self-promotion will fill every available channel, but is this what we want these platforms to become?

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