When I wrote Hiding in Plain Sight in 2011, I remarked on the strange disconnectedness of social media. Recently something happened to show me that things haven't really changed all that much.
A question came up on a professional listserve -- where's Ralph? I used to participate in the discussion, but mostlyI just monitored the list as I didn't have much to contribute. Engagement slacked off still further and I hadn't checked the list in over a year -- email (especially on an AOL address) is so 20th Century.
A friend alerted me that the question had come up, and before I could respond, there was a flurry of discussion. No one seemed to know where I was. Was I still in the country? Still alive? Still in business? It was a mystery.
While my participation in an email listserve waned, I've become increasingly active on several social media sites -- including Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Google+ (just starting with that last one). No one knew where I was. This blog passed 100,000 views -- and no one knew where I was.
It didn't remain that way for long, though. Some of the folks did some searching and thought they had found me on those sites, but weren't sure if it was me or someone else with the same name. I've since responded, and let everyone know that I'm fine, and confirming where I can be found.
The interesting thing is that some of those folks are on Facebook, and/or Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and Linkedin -- but they apparently weren't aware I was also.
Two years ago I noted that there seemed to be clear divides among my social media associates. Friends on Facebook had no idea I was a blogger (or what I might even be writing about). Twitter followers are seldom my LinkedIn contacts, and Pinterest followers are mostly completely unrelated to any of the other groups.
It can be kind of liberating, because I can have a different persona for each group. But there's a danger, too. I've tried very hard to raise my public profile online, yet I'm still invisible to most of the people I know personally and professionally. So who cares if I post something embarrassing or in poor taste or illegal? No one's watching anyway.
Except when they are. We needn't wonder why people continue to share such things on social media sites. It seems that no one's paying attention, which makes the poster feel safely anonymous.
I'm glad I've never succumbed to the temptation. Because once people started to actively search for me, I was very easy to find -- along with all of my public posts, pins, tweets, and updates. Being on a social media site doesn't guarantee people will beat a path to your door. But when they find that path, it better be in good repair.