I have recently had several conversations with colleagues and friends regarding how to distinguish between your “public” social media presence and your “private” one. Let me explain what I mean by public and private. Many friends and colleagues use social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as a means of staying connected with a large network of friends, family members, colleagues and associates, and for most, the idea that nothing is truly private on the internet is a concept that most would agree with. But as I take time to reflect on how these lines are beginning to blur, I thought I would share how I use two of these networks differently and yet seem to find them blending more into one another than ever before.
For those of us who use Facebook, there is a sense that the people we “friend” have some sort of connection to us. They represent individuals who have in some way, been a part of our lives. They may be classmates, family members, childhood friend and the like. The interactions we have with this “closed” group may be more personal in nature. As one friend put it, the “people I friend on Facebook need to be willing to see pictures of my kids with applesauce on their faces” and for most of us, we get that idea, we want to connect with these people that have been or currently are a part of our lives. Twitter, on the other hand is where anyone can connect and follow what you say, who you interact with and therefore, unless you lock your feed and keep it closed, it is open for the world to see. One reason why Tweeting that you are going away on vacation is not a good idea because there have been cases where individuals have had their homes broken into. For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you know that I see this network as an extension of my personal learning network. I have developed collegial relationships with individuals around the country whom I have never had the opportunity to meet in person. In the end, this network is public, it is open and therefore less likely to include posts about my personal life.
But as I come to think of it more and more, the reality of how Facebook functions, at least for me, is that I don’t see it as a closed, private network. It is an extension of my public persona. What I post on my wall needs to be a reflection of my public life, the only difference is that the “friends” that are connected to me on Facebook get to see a slightly more personal side. Photos of my son, meanderings about baseball and lively discussions about politics, current events and social issues. Now I know that many users are as open on Twitter as they are on Facebook, but the question I have been pondering lately is are we reaching a point where technology has blurred the lines of privacy to an extent where we must fully realize that our actions and words shape the image others have of us?
I recently spoke to my faculty about changes to our social networking policies and the emphasis was on helping them understand that the connections they choose to make, open them up to access they may not fully understand. Helping members of our school communities see the potential of social media is only one step in the equation, helping them learn how interacting in this new medium is different and comes with a set of “new rules” is an important second step in successfully engaging your community.
So how do you differentiate between your public and private networks?
Photo Credit: Lee Coursey