Private or Personal in Social Media?

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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