My love-hate relationship with Facebook
Being, as this blog’s URL indicates, in my thirties, I remember the days before the internet. I remember the early forms of social networking.I remember when The Facebook first popped up, when I was back at NYU doing the foreign language requirement that had kept me from actually having my degree (at the same time, I took several literature classes in order to be eligible for various types of funding and because I’m a geek). It was a time of LiveJournal and Limewire. I remember when, a few years later, I finally caved and joined MySpace. I remember a friend encouraging me to join Facebook because it was better than MySpace (in the intervening years, I’d forgotten I had a Facebook account… I only remembered signing up when, a few months after joining, it was suggested that I become friends with myself).
Facebook has been great in many ways — it’s allowed me to be in much better contact with family members and old friends. It’s helped Adam connect with other artists and customers. It’s been a way for both of us to meet, however virtually, each other’s friends from years past. In that respect, it’s brilliant.
But, as everyone must know, it’s also a horrible thing. It’s caused me various problems over the years, many of which I’ve written about before. It’s allowed people into our lives who had no business being there. I’ve had to close accounts, to log off completely, to continuously update my privacy settings. It’s common sense, on the one hand, that we should always be aware of what we give away about ourselves online. It’s another issue altogether when you realize that it’s necessary to ensure that photos taken in your living room don’t show your neighbour’s house number through the window in the background. It’s beyond the level of normal sense to think that by putting a status about going some place or another would result in people showing up there.
All of that isn’t what I really wanted to write about, though. That’s all just a very wordy preface. What I’ve been pondering about my Facebook life is what sort of overlap I can realistically allow between various social identities. My personal account is a way for me to keep in touch with friends and family. My Twitter account is a way to shoot vitriolic snippets into the world. This blog is a way for me to do lengthier expositions about whatever happens to be bothering me. All of these things are out there, public, easy to find.
So where does that leave me as a professional. If I’m writing all these things in various ways, how am I meant to differentiate myself as a professional writer. Can I ever get past being “Jen in her 30s”? Should I get past it? (Besides turning 40, but that’s still a few years off.)
I’ve got a temporary portfolio of some of my writing clips, so that I have a place where I can send editors when I don’t want them to see just how much I say things like “cunt”. I have a separate Twitter account for more professional tweets. I have an as-yet-un-“liked” Facebook page for the same purpose. But, without doing a massive scorched earth policy on my social networking identity, is this enough? Is it fair for me to expect that my professional identity won’t always come back to my personal identity?
We’ve all had multiple masks for as long as we’ve had social interactions. You don’t go to work in your pajamas (well, not usually, but I have known exceptions), you don’t invite your boss to a party (again, exceptions), and you don’t launch into a swearing tirade in a business call (yep, exceptions). For my working life, I’ve dressed the part, acted the part, and spoken the part. I know how to read the audience, but when the audience is able to read the me meant for other audiences to see, does that destroy this multiple mask charade completely?
Right now, I keep things separated as much as I can. I use the settings given to me by Facebook, so don’t worry about what I write there being seen by the wrong group (if you don’t use them, restricted lists are the best thing ever). But as I get ready to hit ‘publish’ for the professional page, I don’t know what all to include. If I have links to this blog, the jig is up. If I have links to anything, there’s going to be some unprofessional part of me that will potentially be seen by professional people. I can’t just delete the unprofessional manifestations of me because those are almost always the ways I communicate with family and friends.
I’m going to end this with a basic question… Where do you draw the line and how do you keep your masks juggled in the age of Google?