I read something last week about being careful about your personal and public profiles. The author compared it to stars in sports and entertainment who hire publicists with the express purpose of creating a public persona for them; creating the person they want us to know which could quite possibly be something entirely different than who they really are. He gave another example about political leaders, who might have pictures of them partying and popping bottles and someone might give them the side eye like, What is he doing? Why isn't he saving the world? The answer is simply because he likes to have a good time and unwind just like you.
As I am doing more and more to build my own business and my own professional persona I am having to navigate this territory. I have a blog, twitter, facebook, linkedin and a myriad of other online social networking tools and accounts which help me to more easily navigate the personal and professional. Yet I wonder everyday, am I sharing too much? Do people really need to know who I really am?
The problem comes because I genuinely do wear my heart on my sleeve. What you see is what you get. I don't have any big secrets, and if you ask me a question I'll answer it. I'm not that guarded, which is a blessing and a curse. It works because the vulnerability allows me to write, speak, and create honestly; to display myself (as nervous as it sometimes makes me) for a greater purpose. It really only usually only gets me in trouble when it comes to men. (A story for another day, over a couple glasses of wine.)
Now I wonder, should the families I babysit for or dance students be able to know and read my thoughts on love, life, politics, race and religion? What pictures should I display on my limited facebook profile? Who gets to be limited? Who should have full access? Should I tweet only about the blog and dance? Or does it hurt my image to talk about the every day? To say I'm up in the club, got the hook up and my friend is poppin' bottles? LOL!
These questions are hard to navigate, harder still because I'm what someone dubbed on twitter the other day as "Original Facebook." I was there when it was a social network only open to Ivy League schools. Over a year ago, I wrote about how "Us Barnard and Columbia students might not have witnessed its really early steps like the Harvard kids did, but my peers and I watched the site grow from a collection of one page profiles whose only application was an il-functioning web to show how you and your friends were connected, to an international social networking database with more bells, buttons and whistles than anyone should be expected to know how to manage if today was the first time they ever logged on." Suddenly, everybody and their mother is on the site, and I'm not sure that I want everybody and their mother to see me partying like its 2007 (the year I finished undergrad).
I had always had my own golden facebook rule that I would never post anything I didn't want my mama to see or know, but that's kind of hard when I talk fairly openly with my mother. I think it's easier for people who have just come to facebook in the past few years, for whatever reasons, to regulate their profile content. Me, I'm seven years deep in pictures, notes and wall posts; and generally speaking, nothing's there that I don't want to be there.
But who should get to see that?
I'm not going to stop blogging what I think, tweeting how I feel, or facebooking to say "Hi Best Friend! I love you!" and "Call me about that project next week," but I am certainly more aware that the lines between my private and public persona are blurred; they are more or less the same. I'm kinda stepping out on a leap of faith that this doesn't hurt me business-wise, but is it wrong to just want to brand myself as me?