Thursday, May 28, 2015

The real me on social media

On a very popular social networking platform that requires users to use their real names and does not permit users to have multiple accounts, I have two accounts.

If this company ever discovers that I have two accounts, I will be asked to delete one of them - or they will do it for me.

One of my accounts has my real name, plus a word to indicate that this is an account that represents me as a specialist in my chosen field. The other account doesn’t spell my real name correctly, but my friends on that account know it’s me. Each account lists me as living in a different city - one is Portland, and one is the town where I actually live, about 30 minutes away. I'm hoping those differences in the two accounts will continue to fool the company's algorithms, as well as search engines regarding searches of my name.

Why did I create two accounts? Because as soon as I got on the Internet back in the early 1990s, I knew that online activities are the same as publishing, and that while a case can be made that email communications are private, it’s hard to do the same for a message posted on an online community, even a supposedly private one.

Also, I have always understood that people have two personas - the one that they share publicly with co-workers or fellow members of a group, and the one that is for very close friends and family. Sure, there's overlap, but the reality is that I don't necessarily want my co-workers to know what a Harry Potter fanatic I am. I may love posting a photo of myself for my friends where I look great - but I'm holding a beer, and that might put off many of my work colleagues, particularly in religiously-conservative countries.

I became very happy that I created two personas online for other reasons as well: when I work in public relations and marketing, my public speech is as a representative of a company or program, and when I work for humanitarian organizations, I am mandated to be politically neutral in public speech. My public, professional persona meets the standards of most of these agencies - my private, friends-only persona most certainly would not.

My biggest problem in all this? It's not that someone will hack my personal account, though I wouldn't like that if they did. No, my biggest problem in all this is that my public online persona on the very popular social networking platform is SO boring. It’s milquetoast. I cannot be controversial, I cannot be political - I cannot be truly ME. I’ve tried to jazz it up on occasion, posting about, say, a motorcycle trip. Or my dog or cat. And I’ve followed the advice on this blog, about how to endorse an idea but remain politically neutral. But my public profile remains boring. I certainly wouldn't follow it. And, to be honest, my friends on that account - mostly professional colleagues and neighbors, as well as family members that couldn't handle the real me - are also rather boring, rarely posting anything that makes me want to have an online discussion, that provokes thought, that really educations, etc.. I don’t rush to read the account, let alone post to it. I'm there more because I have to be, because of my work, rather than because I want to be.

I often think celebrities have the opposite problem. Someone like, say, Steve Martin, who online, and in his professional life, is hilarious and irreverent, but in his private life, probably loves to leave that persona behind and be just a nice, calm guy. Me - I have to be nice and calm on my professional persona online, being oh-so-careful re: anything and everything I say. And it takes all of the fun out of social media, truly.

(I suspect that Nathan Fillion is exactly the same person online as he is offline...)

So, if you follow me on my private account on that certain social media platform, good for you: it means you know the real me. It means I’m being myself with you online. I know I rant a lot on that account - about human rights, against pseudo science, about politics, and on and on. I tell off-color jokes. I use language that would make a sailor blush. But it's me. The authentic me. Enjoy!

If you follow me on my public account... well, don't be offended. The reality is that you shouldn't even know this blog exists... but if you do, and you are a friend on my public account, it's probably because we work together or have worked together. And I like to keep work and volunteering online activities separate from my political rants and inappropriate humor.

And someday, I’m going to win the lottery and get to delete that professional account and rant publicly all I want.

No comments:

Post a Comment