I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about the personal, professional and private information we share online, especially in light of all of the recent discussions about the changes to Facebook’s privacy policy. I actually believe that online privacy is more of an illusion than […]

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about the personal, professional and private information we share online, especially in light of all of the recent discussions about the changes to Facebook’s privacy policy. I actually believe that online privacy is more of an illusion than it is reality, but maintaining our privacy is something that deserves more thought than many of us devote to it. This is especially true for those of us who make our living online.

Last week, I discussed how you can be both personal and professional in social media:

You can actually be professional and personal at the same time in social media without too much effort. When we talk about “being personal” on social media web sites, I think that many people confuse “personal” with “private.” The reality is that you get to decide what to share and what not to share, so you can still keep most areas of your private life private.

Now, let’s talk about the private information. Sites like Facebook can change their policies at any time to make information that was once private become public. Ed Gubbins on GigaOM Pro (subscription required) points out that “to satisfy their privacy concerns, users will have to take a more sophisticated and hands-on approach to managing their accounts, and that means Facebooking is going to get more complicated.”

For those of us who work mainly online, this means that we need to be especially careful about what we share and how we share it. In general, I don’t share anything that would be devastating if a client, prospective employer or family member read it. In fact, my mom, my sister, other family members and clients all follow my Twitter feed and/or Facebook status, so they see much of what I say online. I’m not going to say anything that would damage those relationships even in areas that seem to be more “private.”

I consider everything that I share online, even in “private” areas,  to be public information. If I would be embarrassed to have a family member or client see it, I don’t post it. Keep those drunken ramblings, too much information (TMI) moments, and other sensitive data off of the social media sites if you need to also maintain your professionalism online.

How do you balance what information you keep private vs. what you post online?

Photo by Flickr user Ted Percival used under Creative Commons.

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  1. I think Facebook is too “wide” for developing deeper, personal group content. I am trying to encourage my “family” to launch a private Google Site where pictures of tattoos from the Generation Y members don’t offend the Baby Boomers (who would know of these privately anyway) simply because the present audience is known by all, and managed collectively. But that gets you into the whole ground up wiki conundrum. Still, I think that is the right path forward for generating better personal content while isolating potentially private information from other professional web artifacts.

  2. I make it a rule to never ever post private information online. Since it is a given that anything you put online will become a part of the public domain, I assume that every client, friend and even my parents will read it. So I write accordingly.

  3. It’s an interesting point and easy enough for those of us who are now working so can see what’s being posted with a view of ‘what if other people see this’.

    I’m not sure what’s going to happen when people who aren’t currently working and are happily posting pictures of themselves and their mates online suddenly find that, possibly, not all of that information should be there.

  4. Luckily my industry doesn’t place too much judgement on the Tweets and post-work activities of any one personality in the industry. Subsequently, I’m pretty much the same on and offline and will say the same things via my social media platforms, cussing included. Whether it will come back to bite me in the ass down the road, words not so much but I think anything visual has a larger possibility.

    In Facebook I make sure nobody can see my tagged photos, not that it really matters, I do make sure that regardless of the setting, I try to stay out of precarious situations haha.

  5. Dawn, here’s a true story. I was watching a Chicago Bears game a couple of weeks ago (the one that went into overtime vs the Vikings). I was SHOCKED at how many of my Facebook friends were dropping the F-bomb when the Bears pulled out the win. I mean, imagine a potential client doing a google search just to find your indexed blue reaction to a football game!?!?!

    I am always conscience of what I post, what time I post it, and how revealing I am of my location at any given time, etc.

    I really work hard to keep a good balance between personal & professional. You don’t have to put it all out there to be authentic. Great topic!

  6. And that’s the issue, Mary-Lynn – we all worry about what happens if we’re human. That reaction is a perfectly reasonable one… with friends. That’s why the GigaOm comment is silly – what, 17 year olds (or 34 year olds who don’t spend all of their time online talking about SM) are supposed to become proficient at sophisticated privacy control? Please.

    Again, I’m not really talking about sharing truly private things, I’m talking about the fact that there are different contexts for sharing – close friends, friends, casual acquaintances, clients, family – and social media sucks at reflecting that so we’re left with the choice of being too open or with being buttoned up and appropriate at all times.

  7. links for 2010-01-11 | Stratepedia Blog Monday, January 11, 2010

    [...] Private or Personal in Social Media? (tags: privacy social_media) [...]

  8. in “twin peaks” serie: investigators says: secrets are dangerious

    when posting information online, even if it seem to bi in private channel, note that one day it won’t be anymore. It seem to be same with normal life, sooner or later we will have to forget about privacy.

  9. Private or Personal in Social Media? | Seo Curacao Monday, January 11, 2010

    [...] original here: Private or Personal in Social Media? Share and [...]

  10. I do the same think: I’m using my social media account for both personal and professional duties. And as you said, if I consider a something to be to private I don’t post it. People are making mistakes when it comes to social networks like that women who posted foolish remarks about her boss on Facebook. http://blog.cyclope-series.com/2009/08/8-of-us-companies-fired-employees-because-of-facebook/

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