Monday, October 13, 2008

Personal vs. Professional Personas

Should our online personal and professional personas be separated?

Online Social Media and Networking isn't really all that new anymore, but it's relationship to your professional life is. If you're like me, you've got accounts on sites like myspace, facebook, flickr, delicious, twitter, brightkite, a personal blog and professional blog that are all recording and broadcasting your life to your friends, family and co-workers. I share lots of personal experiences on these sites, as do a lot of other people, that may or may not represent myself as a reliable and professional person. There wouldn't be much of a problem with this except that my professional life has taken over just as much a share in my online identity as my personal life has. The fact that I'm an interactive art director specializing in social media applications plays a big role in my professional identity growing, but i think this is a phenomenon that is spreading to other fields as well.

So, how do you manage this? I don't want my employer, future employer or client to find those drunken picts from last new years, or discovering my odd collection of "dickbirds", but i do enjoy sharing these things with my friends. On the other hand, I think its valuable to show that you have a strong online presence as well as an active and creative lifestyle. These are all important to keeping a creative mind healthy, and the fact that you have a life, online or off, is a very positive attribute. Showing that you have a sense of humor, that you're sincere about who and what you are, and not afraid to express yourself can do wonders for how you're perceived in the workplace. No one likes a fake, and its almost always obvious when you're persona totally changes at work (especially if your facebook page shows otherwise), but where and how do you draw the line?

The only answer is restraint. I know, its not fun. Its muffling the real you, its censorship, its whatever.... but face it, thats the way life is. you can't show every part of yourself to everyone in the world and not expect to be judged by it. A few years ago you could post up anything you wanted to your social applications and only expect your "friends" to see it, but now most of my online buddies are professional contacts. The good thing about my industry is that most of them are in the same boat as I am. We're all trying to figure out the balance while combining their personal and professional online presence into one. Everyone has to evaluate their own career path and their lifestyle and decide how much they can be publicly intertwine in a productive fashion.

Times are changing and i can't wait to see how this evolves social media and the workplace.


Joelle said...

This is a good question. For us, we "came up" because of our personal personas and our blogs. That was a catalyst to our business. We do keep them relatively open, but neither of us blog really personally on our blogs. Not because our client's might see it, but because we never have.

There are areas where I choose not to display my personal twitter account, like on Plaxo, Linkd In, Facebook... anywhere a client might see it. But I don't keep it private because that defeats the purpose, in my opinion. We have a Moxie twitter account that we share across the board.

personally keep Linked In, Plaxo, Facebook and other sites like that at an arms length and mostly for promotional or professional reasons. I have fun with my personal Twitter and if I client sees that and can't hang... well, I am entitled to at least ONE space online that I can let my hair down.

And my blog is... well, it's on life support right now. I'm sort of over it.

sbaugh said...

Great post Jon.

sbaugh said...

to be honest - - unless they are a personal friend, I'm going to remove all my work associates from my Friend list, and create a new profile for my professional persona.

toph said...

i used to keep mine completely separate, but i used to work in newspapers...
now, they cross, but i don't care nearly as much anymore.