I never had MySpace. Even when Facebook became all the rage, I had no interest in getting a public social profile. When they made me open a Twitter account in journalism school, I didn’t actually tweet for a couple years.
But eventually, I gave in. It started with Facebook. Everyone was on it and there was so much great potential for
stalking connection. I was resolved to maintain my privacy though, so I had stringent privacy settings, almost never posted photos and at one point didn’t even have a “wall.”
Then I went to grad school to study communications, and realized my privacy-loving-self was going to lose the battle against social media. At first, I just tweeted a little, got a Facebook wall again. Then I tweeted more. And more. Soon, posts on multiple social media platforms about every aspect of my life (accompanied by photos) became my norm. Starting a Tumblr blog seemed like a natural progression from there. Using Delicious for social bookmarking just made good sense. LinkedIn was clearly required professionally. Pinterest was way too much fun. And don’t get me started on Instagram.
At some point I gave up trying to maintain privacy. I felt that I needed a personal brand online that showcased my ability to interact with all social/digital media. And that I needed to prove I’m an interesting person who does interesting things. After all, who wants a boring communications rep?
Working in the communications industry I do need to understand and use all major digital technology/media. And there is certainly a degree of public posting/engagement required to maintain an online presence. But to what extent? Why does privacy matter? Does it matter? Is it actually a big deal if people (sometimes strangers) know facts about where I go and what I do?
I don’t have articulate answers to those questions right now. But what makes me far more uncomfortable is how accustomed I’ve become to making things public. I now go out of my way to record personal experiences, not just for the sake of memory, but to present them to an audience. And then, gage how well that audience interacted with my post. (Note that I’m an extreme personality. I’m either completely disengaged or all in – I’m sure lots of people are more balanced than I am about this.)
I will continue to share interesting and exciting things with friends on social media and when I’m doing something or producing something relevant to broader audiences, I will post it publicly. But I’m going to choose to disconnect sometimes too. So that, for instance, sometimes my motive for taking a picture will simply be to capture that moment.
If you’re not bored yet, here’s my rationale for what I will and will not publish publicly on a few social media platforms. I don’t think there are right or wrong answers, and would be interested to find out your reasons for the level of privacy you maintain online.
-My current Facebook solution is to maintain a relatively small “friends” list (occasionally having to ignore friend requests from business contacts), while making public some posts and photos of me in professional settings/interesting places. I’m considering changing this though, making all the info I post on Facebook public and “friending” everyone. Making Facebook a public, not private medium in my life. My reasoning is, the more people who see/engage with things I post about my blog or book or business the better. And I could either stop posting personal things altogether or make them visible only to a specified list of close friends.
–Twitter is a little more obvious. It’s always public for me, but I don’t tweet intensely personal things. That said, I’d like to limit tweeting about where I am and what I’m doing (fun as it might be) and focus more on posting content related to my industry/projects.
-I have 3 blogs. So I may abandon the Tumblr one. There’s lots of value in blogging, but you don’t need to hear from me that much. Or, since Tumblr is such a visually appealing platform (lots of photo blogs), I may turn it into a photo/video venue, just for fun.
-I’m making my Instagram account private. Because I want to post personal photos there, I don’t want to share my feed with the world. It’s too bad because there are some photos I would like to make public. I wish the application gave you the option of making a photo public or private, the same way Facebook does. But I can easily share some of the photos on Tumblr or directly to this blog.