Nope, this is not another rundown for how businesses can/should use social media to their advantage, nor is it an additional expose about how useful social media is for link-building efforts and reputation management.  I do not know how much has been written regarding what social media means for you (me, us, etc.) as a person-or of what quality what has been written is-but I intend to make something of a reflective stab at the matter before our New Year sets in.  Note that when I say person, I mean the person you are when you’re away from work and less socially wary; that is, yourself in a more ‘fundamental’ form, more or less.

Social Media and You:  More Eyes on you-that’s The Dilemma

My social medium of choice is Facebook (I find Twitter to be a less interesting, blander version of Facebook, in all honesty), and many of us Facebook users know that, by our very participation, we are instantly connected to many others who, with our permission, observe and interact with us-and vice versa (yes, the same applies to Twitter users as well, of course).  For those who plan on keeping their connections limited to, say, family members and close friends, the dilemma of social media will likely not hit them as hard.  For those who have a penchant for expanding their networks through social media-and there is a lot of us-the situation is a bit different, and therein lies the dilemma.  As we acquire more and more ‘viewers’ (hey, that’s what they are in many respects), the ramifications of our behavior through the social medium become more significant. 

Who do you want to connect with...?

Who do you want to connect with...?

This can be a good thing if you need assistance (or, yes, are a business) or just need to get a message out, but it is also a breeding ground for potential conflict, especially if your personal page is also, in part, your professional page.  Fortunately, the new privacy settings on Facebook make this less of a problem; if there is something quite hilarious that I really wish to share with one group of people, and that I don’t believe is the business of or relevant to another group of people (the whole “nothing to hide” ideal is, to me, quite bogus-not all your friends/followers on Facebook or Twitter are equal), it is easy to keep the jest in the appropriate circle.  However, having many listeners/viewers/whatever you want to call em does temper one’s virtual personality a bit, and the following question arises:  How much of yourself do you want to temper for the sake of the people you are connected to?  Social media is frequently depicted as being about you and for you (business, organization, and individual alike), but this important feature is compromised for the individual when both personal and professional networks mix on the same social medium.  The dilemma boils down to where and how one draws the line.

Whole, but separate.

Whole, but separate.

In a perfect world, human identity would be this nice integrated whole that would show the same face to everyone all the time and thereby eliminate the issues that form from the use of social media, among other things.  Alas, the world is not perfect and human identity is not so simple.  The best way, I believe, for an individual to utilize social media for both professional and personal ends is to have, seriously, two identities on two different networks which both contain one ‘half’ of the essential aspects of who one is (i.e. the professional side and the personal side).  There is a network for professionals and a network for friends-just as there is a time for work and a time for play (Facebook and Linkedin and you’re golden J ).  This dichotomy, although not always straightforward to implement, is a very effective means to keeping one’s sanity and is much easier than an attempt at merging the two.  The latter is indeed possible, but what frequently emerges is a compromise that, strangely, eventually leaves each side feeling they received the short end of the stick.


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