Split Personalities: Work and Personal Life Online & Anonymity

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Have you seen this men? (Or would you work with them?)

We are defined by those around us.

As our circles of interest and communities collide online, our lives become entangled with one another.  It is after all, a matter of perspective.  That photo was apart of Movember fund raising.

Over the past three months I have been asked to offer advice on this matter, and more recently I’ve come to see it played out with all sorts of conclusions, consequences and successes.  Let’s look at the  question and try and break it down:

  1. Do you censor yourself online?
  2. Do you have two Facebook accounts — one for work, and one for ‘personal’?
  3. Do you protect (block) your updates on Twitter from the public?
  4. Do you put your real name and work information on your blog?

A note on anonymity: If you’re going to say something about someone, put your name to it. See that’s not hard is it?  At the time of writing this mUmbrella (Tim Burrowes) echoed my thoughts simultaneously on the matter.

Basically what are we really asking?

Do you censor yourself online?

  1. Do you say FUCK on your blog/twitter/facebook?
  2. Do you bash clients/partners/company on your blog?
  3. Do you reveal company activities that might reflect poorly on the company?

I believe the first example is more about image and perception. The second is about being two faced and unhappy with your current situation. If you swear in real life, there’s probably just as much chance of someone from work over hearing you in the local after work.   If you’re slamming clients and work you probably need to look at the problem and address it.  The third is something obviously the company should address.  Always remember to clean up your MySpace ;)

Three common reasons for two Facebook accounts:

  1. I don’t want industry people perving on my latest pool party pictures
  2. I don’t want my work mates to know that I get munted every weekend
  3. I keep work at work, and life on the weekends. No need for the two to cross.

Do you protect your Twitter updates? (i.e. Make them private)

  1. Yes, don’t want my work/clients/friends/ex-bf knowing I’m bitching about them.
  2. It’s my secret diary of thoughts

Do you put your real name and work information on your blog?

  1. No, my views are different than those of my company
  2. No, it’s a personal journal of thoughts and wonderings
  3. I like stuffed toys, I don’t want anyone from work to know

When it comes to ‘representing the company’ or maintaining a self image — learn from those who are failing  in Australia.  The NRL stars who are constantly going and getting wasted, dropping pills and playing chasey with the girls.  Isn’t this just like their Facebook? Their Twitter stream? It’s public, and they’re doing and saying shit they probably shouldn’t.

But, regardless of whether they like it or not, they represent so much more than just themselves.  It’s about their team (company), associations, stakeholders and audience. And now as our stakeholders move into more spaces, we need to take more responsibility.

What do you think? Are we all becoming public figures in the eye of our stakeholders?

My opinion: if you can create a pseudonym beyond a name, craft an image, and create a persona, you might just be able to seperate your life and work online as the lines blur. But perhaps it’s that personal approach blurring with work that will be the kicker for your next communication.

Jye Smith is currently the Digital Strategist for Weber Shandwick Australia. Ranked in B&Ts 30 Under 30, he's a regular keynote speaker and workshop facilitator who specialises in digital strategy, social media marketing, and change management.

There are 9 comments for this article
  1. Annik at 10:27 am

    Hey one of those bros doesn’t even have a mo! Maybe he should create an online persona who is capable of selecting an appropriate T-shirt and growing facial hair?

    “If you’re going to say something about someone, put your name to it.”

    ^^ What if putting your name to it means you then can’t say it at all? I think that an opinion can still be valid, even if you can’t own up to it. (A very extreme example would be somebody who testifies against somebody else anonymously to protect their own personal safety.)

  2. Jye Author at 10:47 am

    A practical approach might writing to the author, or, clarifying the fact you would like to remain anonymous for personal reasons.

    I think the remark was related to either snarky or defamatory comments. Which rarely, if at all, contribute to the conversation or debate.

  3. Nick T at 12:31 pm

    This is all about morals, ethics, how you were brought up, how you care for your future. Both on a personal and professional level.

    How would you like to be treated? How have you been treated and what did you not like? Should you apply the same rules to those around you and the company you work for?

    What do you represent? What do you want to represent? Your private life where you don’t care who sees what? Your public persona where who you are is your job, your future life.

    Is it a personal rant or a whistle blowing?

    Interesting take on the NRL. The NRL is like any Sport these days with this issue. Take the AFL with Ben Cousins, swimming with Nick D’Arcy, Cricket Andrew Symmonds.

    And the players, their managers, their clubs need to realise that this is a business they are in. And it ain’t about sport. It is about a business. The entertainment business. It is where people pay good money to be a part of it. Sponsors, supporters, Media.

    And that has a price that will affect your life. The rest of your life when you choose sport as your career.

    We live in a loose age. Social Media is killing privacy. The internet is killing privacy. Digital phones, cameras etc are all breaking down the barriers. Our desire for a 24/7 instant access life. Reality TV, oh my god look at me.

    The press will hang anyone and will dig deeper for it. They too are under pressure from the very tools that make our lives so open. And those tools allow them to show case that bad behaviour to sell more. It is a neat little circle

    So back to us on twitter, facebook, myspace. We love a good story. We all know that the morning news is about what has happened and lunch time web browsing is about death, drugs and divorce gossip.

    And if that story is about a star or about ourselves, our friends and our colleagues then who cares. We will read it.

    And so we need to ask ourselver do we really hang people out to dry just because we know what they do in their personal life. After all we all do stuff

    No, most of us do not. But that changes when you mix work and private life. That casual fuck you work comment. That rant because you had a bad day.

    Now you have chosen such an open life now everyone knows about it. So it could be shame about that job you applied for last week. Or that new round of redundancies.

    Mind you I did hear the one about the guy who saw the photos of his then girlfriend kissing someone at a party the night before last.

    Good or bad thing.

    The lines can be so blurred ;-))

  4. Nathan Bush at 5:13 pm

    In terms of my personal pages – Facebook etc I’m happy to have one because I’ve got nothing to hide (and I’m quick on the untag feature).

    Great point on the professional side though. There’s been times where I’ve criticised a brand or agency and then think “shit, what if I ever wanted to work there?”. But if you make your point in a logical, respectful way there should be nothing to worry about and can only show that you are passionate and relatively switched on.

  5. Jye Author at 9:48 am

    Thanks for your comments Nathan.

    You’re 100% right: if you construct and argument and deliver it in a courteous and constructive manner: then you’re probably doing that business a valuable favour by providing them with feedback: who knows, they may even wish to hire you.

    Strangely enough you’ve touched on something that I did months before working for the agency I do now: and it was their response and engagement after that really demonstrated their expertise in the space.

  6. Kristen at 1:28 pm

    Do you censor yourself online?
    Of course, especially when it comes to talking about other people and work. I do agree that things shouldn’t be said anonymously… if you want to be anonymous, then perhaps it shouldn’t be said.

    Do you have two Facebook accounts — one for work, and one for ‘personal’?
    No, but I’m not “friends” with my manager or the department manager even though they’re on facebook. I also untag inappropriate photos. Eh, who am I kidding? There are too few photo opportunities these days ;-)

    Do you protect (block) your updates on Twitter from the public?
    No, I’ve got nothing to hide and I’m lucky that I’ve never been harrassed by stalkers… so I’ve got no reason to protect my updates.

    Do you put your real name and work information on your blog?
    Definitely not on my blog. Everyone needs somewhere to truly vent.

    Do you say FUCK on your blog/twitter/facebook?
    Only very rarely if the situation really calls for it. I basically swear as much online as I would in real life. And I always consider my Dad’s reaction first.

    Do you bash clients/partners/company on your blog?
    No. I once mentioned one of our campaigns that was canned… but then I realised it was probably a breach of confidence and deleted that post. It’s hard to draw the line though, we spend so much time at work (and we get so involved in our projects)… it’s hard not to “talk” about them.

    Do you reveal company activities that might reflect poorly on the company?
    No. But this could be related to my attitude and work ethos. I’m actually quite proud of the company I work for so I find few opportunities to belittle them. The only things that I would say publicly are things that I DO say to my manager, my department manager and that I *would* say to my MD if the chance arose.

  7. Jye Author at 1:49 pm

    Some nice points.

    I’ve got to ask — doesn’t your 4th point negate your other points? Perhaps points 1 in the sense that ‘venting’ things that you don’t want to be named for? That’s a form of anonymity due to the desire not to censor?

    I guess it also depends on whether it’s a blog no one reads, or a forum where others interact regularly, or a the other extreme, a private journal for 1 person. Always important to know your audience — good intentions can’t restrict perceptions.

  8. Justin Polites at 2:40 pm

    1. Do you censor yourself online?
    >>Yes. But I do in real life so who is the real me. 35 years and I am still trying to figure this out. I think the idea of the real me & fake me online is curious. Good article http://www.defamer.com.au/2009/03/everyones-real-fake-on-twitter/

    2. Do you have two Facebook accounts — one for work, and one for ‘personal’?
    >>No. Doesn’t a filter effectively create as many FB accounts as you need. If people think that is ok to post pictures of you in comprising positions I would start to reassess your social network. 1 bad tag deserves a warning a second is goodbye my friend.

    3. Do you protect (block) your updates on Twitter from the public?
    >>No.
    Self censorship should be obvious even in 1 to 1 exchanges via email.

    4. Do you put your real name and work information on your blog?
    >>Yes. See 3.

    A note on anonymity: If you’re going to say something about someone, put your name to it. See that’s not hard is it? At the time of writing this mUmbrella (Tim Burrowes) echoed my thoughts simultaneously on the matter.

    >>Unfortunately Tim not only puts his name on things he is very quick to single out individual employees of an organisation when he is having a go at a Brand. Comments on an organisation are one thing but listing individuals who may or may not have anything to do with a communication is a bit rough.

    Do you put your real name and work information on your blog?
    >>yes

    # Do you bash clients/partners/company on your blog?
    >>No. But will challenge politely.

    # Do you reveal company activities that might reflect poorly on the company?
    >>No.