Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Drawing the Line in Social Media

This is a post of questions -- answers would be most appreciated.

Like many others, I have an extensive social media network. I have a Facebook page, a MySpace account (although that's really for business), two Twitter feeds (personal and professional), a LinkedIn account and so on.

Some of my friends/followers I know in real life, and some I see on a regular basis. Others I've only known through business dealings (primarily online), and some only through these social media networks.

Where do I draw the line between what to share and what to keep private?
Generally, I try to keep personal posts/tweets about myself rather than my family or friends to respect their privacy (if they want to share experiences online, they can chose to do so themselves).

What level of sharing is appropriate?
Our family recently went through a serious experience, and all of a sudden, the abstract question became real. Obviously, close friends and family that needed details of what was happening I contacted directly by phone or in person.

And while I didn't think everyone in the wide world really needed to know what was happening (or even wanted to), it did impact the frequency of my posts, and with my attention drawn elsewhere, the quality of them as well. I tried to provide enough info to explain my lapses without violating the privacy of those involved or just being too much of a downer to read.

So what's the relationship of my social media contacts to me?
Real, true friends? Professional colleagues? Casual acquaintances? Granted, looking at the entire list, it's a combination of all those and more -- but if I want to post something to all my Twitter followers, or all my Facebook friends, what tone should I take. Where's the TMI line?

Others have shared their misfortune socially, and sometimes to good results. If you're laid off it makes sense to get the word out through your social media networks -- you never know where that next job lead is going to come from.

Is there conversational etiquette for social media?
I'm crafting my own answer to these questions as I go along. If you have any answers, please leave a comment!

- Ralph

Day 216 of the WJMA Web Watch.


  1. Anonymous2:04 PM

    That can be a difficult question for many people, but not for me. I struggled with it in the beginning, but in the end I just have be myself and live out loud. Courteously, for the most part.

    Typically, I mostly update on Facebook. All my FB friends are people who know me, some better than others, some are FB acquaintences I've never actually met in person, some are coworkers, but I have no other "business" contacts, really.

    I've found folks to be pretty tolerant, very understanding, concerned for my welfare, empathetic to my conditions, interactive with my voiced opinions, and mostly we all ignore the fringe stuff, or the the stuff we dont' find interesting.

    I'm mostly in it for the banter and the connecting.

  2. I'm pretty candid about my life, though obviously I know there's a line that should not be crossed. I try to project a positive image, but of course in my current life crisis I've dropped hints at what's going on. That's prompted friends I've known from all parts of life to contact me with questions of concern.

    I've been online since 1988, when I first discovered the world of the BBS. In 1998, I had a very rudimentary blog, but at that time I disclosed way too much information about myself and it had negative consequences.

    Now it's 2009, and I make my living online. My professional and my personal overlap, and I'm not certain this is a good thing or a bad thing. All I know is I'm very selective about what gets posted. But, my life is changing, and I want my personal blog, my Facebook page and the rest to reflect the reality of my transition.

    In 2018, who knows what we'll be doing.

  3. All very good points. While I don't mind sharing some things online, I wonder about the other people in my life. Should you talk about other family members do without their knowledge or consent? My wife's not interested in any of this, so I don't mention things involving her to protect her privacy. And while people can empathize with bad situations, is there a line?

    Do people want to read about the death of a family member, or bankruptcy, or having to commit someone, or things of that nature (don't worry -- these are just examples. None of them are happening to me).