Thursday, February 28, 2008

Walk the Line

There's a fine line that we're all beginning to run into these days. It separates our work life from our personal life, our online persona and blogging nicknames from our quotidian embodiment and real name.

People are all handling the presence of this fine line, this tiny fragile thread, in different ways. There's no right answer--especially in the case of online social technologies, there's no precedent. We're the ones out there trying to figure this out. Isn't that kind of exciting?

Here's what some people are doing:

- Charlene Li, top Forrester analyst and social web strategist, has two Facebook profiles, one for her friends and one for her professional followers.

- Wiggins, as he calls himself, blogs under a name that is not his own, though he invites friends who know who he is to read that blog.

- I took a few things off of my Facebook profile, took a deep breath, and began Friending people I know professionally. I hope that they will understand that it's a site primarily dedicated to my personal life--though it touches on how my personal interests intermingle with my work interests. Let's see how that goes.

- One of my coworkers is taking a LOT of things off of her profile so that she can openly participate in our new office Facebook group. She's hoping that her friends won't write crazy stuff on her Wall.

The reason we're beginning to run into this line more and more is, I think, because social technologies are inherently attractive because they expose our personal sides. Society's fascination with the personal lives of celebrities is now broadening to a fascination with other people's daily movements (this shift is for the better, I think--we focus on celebrities usually because they're pretty and rich, whereas we focus on the people we follow on the web because they share our interests, or are thoughtful, or engage us in some other way). We read GM CEO Bob Lutz's blog not because we want to hear propaganda about car manufacturing, but because it's his voice and it adds a sense of human-ness to the giant machine that is the GM corporation.

Moreover, for those of us who love our jobs, personal and work interests intermingle constantly. Is discussion of the Future Of Publishing for my personal profile, or my professional one?

So what can you do to admit that human side into your professional operations, to combine the two, without letting the indulgences of our personal lives affect the professionalism of our work lives?


Wiggins said...

I wonder if part of the reason we have such trouble with this convergence is that we've created these walls between our personal and professional lives.

There are huge benefits to be gained by combining our lives (post once, reuse forever, on the scale of entire lives). The opportunity for unexpected connections increases. But that also increases the chances for unintended consequences.

It is an act of faith, in a very real way. It is about giving up centralized control (or the idea that we can centrally control the image we project to the world), with the hope that you'll be able to weather any mistakes down the line.

AGW said...

i agree. that's just what companies do when they activate discussion groups on their sites: they have to take a deep breath and give up some control. it's the premise of one of the books we're publishing.

i'm interested in what shapes we find that transformation: what are the tentative, brave, median steps that individuals (or companies) are making to let their guards down? and how have such steps affected their success in this social networking space?