Online lives… online lines

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A friend of mine has disconnected from the major social media sites, including Facebook and LinkedIn.

And it wasn’t even because Facebook can suck the time out of your day faster than you can say “Notification.”

His reason was that he’s not comfortable with having his life be an open book to anyone he’s connected to. When I pointed out (acknowledging that no one really trusts Facebook to keep private aspects of our lives, in fact, private), that I use Groups and Privacy settings to restrict how much of my content is available to different people, he heartily disagreed with the concept.

To his way of thinking, either you’re online and open to all (which he doesn’t want to be), or you’re not online.

It feels sort of, well,  devious to him, to compartmentalize one’s online life this way.

But aren’t our real lives compartmentalized? There are people we share openly with, and people we don’t. There are people we relate to about business matters, and people we share our personal lives with. I know he doesn’t have his work team over to the house for dinner with the family, while he might choose to have the neighbors over, for instance.

It feels weird when our worlds collide, when one “compartment” intersects another.  Can’t I retain the right to separate aspects of my world – albeit much less cleanly – in my online life?

On a tangentially related topic, I attended a webcast the other day on social media in business. (Yeah, yeah. Boo hiss.)

One of the thoughts, and it’s really sort of a big “duh” when you think about it, is that social media is a tool. It’s not a magic bullet, for sure. But it is a tool, and one that can be used to connect to people, and when you do it well it’s a tool that allows people to connect over things that are meaningful to them. That means not trying to “be everywhere” … we won’t be relevant everywhere.

They talked about how the trend in social media usage is away from the initial connect-to-everything-and-everyone to a pulling back, a thinning of our friend lists, a restricting of access.  We want to choose who we connect to (with sites like Diaspora*** which I just learned about and want to find out more).  But we’re getting more and more engaged in communities where we have an affinity or passion (about a topic, a brand, an activity, etc).

And then they made a leap to the idea that people have an aspirational desire for those connections to become something more meaningful and personal. OK, I’m listening. Tell me what you mean by that?  And then they gave these examples of brands who interacted with their customers based on what they had Tweeted or posted as a status update (one example was an airline who combined fan tweets with ticket information to find people at the airport and give them some kind of prize… and then posted on their page about that person getting awarded).

The speaker went on and on about these kinds of amazing serendipitous connections being made, and how they’re going to raise the bar for what we expect from social media and from brands.  She raved about these unexpected surprises and I could only think:

Serendipity implies the finding of GOOD things that are unexpected.

Not to say that getting something free from your airline isn’t good. Heck, who doesn’t hate airlines these days?

Even so… I’m horrified.

  • I’m horrified that people post online that they are checking in at the airport. Hi, everyone. I’m not home. Please go rob me.
  • I’m horrified that the airline posts about it. Hi. Do you know Bob? If you wanted to rob him, this is a good time. He’s at the airport right now.
  • While I’m ranting expanding on it, I’m horrified that people post private information, not only about themselves but about their friends, their neighbors, and their kids.  (And I simply cannot say this enough times:  Hello, all you moms out there who keep your maiden name on your FB page so your high school friends can find you? I hate to state the obvious here, but your maiden name is your kids’ mother’s maiden name. And never, never, never post your kids full names, birthdates, city of birth, etc. Just a couple of pieces of information is all someone needs to steal their identity, and they probably won’t even know how deep a mess someone has got them in until they’re adults.)

Whew. I feel better for getting that off my chest.

I don’t want to cut people out of my life, and I have a lot of people that I really only connect with online.

But you know what?  I’m not ready to share everything with everyone. For now, it’s not safe to do that.  So I’ll be using group and privacy settings as much as I can. I’m sorry if that offends anyone along the way. I also won’t be posting information about my comings and goings in real-time. And I won’t be answering any cute little memes that end up revealing my address, city/state of birth, or my mother’s maiden name.

The day may well be coming when privacy is a quaint little notion that sociology classes discuss when they study past generations.  That day is not today.


About aka gringita
Flotsam generator. Amateur photographer. Avid traveler. Christ follower.

7 Responses to Online lives… online lines

  1. Well said. I hardly post anything at all on FB, don’t even use Twitter at all. Most of the stuff I post on FB is kind of anti-facebook, like pointing out when they’re messing with your privacy settings again or how marking all ads as offensive has absolutely no effect on the number or type of ads they display.
    My own post on the topic didn’t come as close to hammering home the point as you do here. Thank you for this.


  2. Compulsive Writer says:

    Absolutely! thank you for the kids mother’s maiden name part. I love that “duh” moment!


  3. markp427 says:

    There’s no doubt about it, social media is a very powerful tool that can be utilized to further your career and enrich your life if you know how to use it wisely. As a writer, my name is my brand, and if I want to be successful I’ve got to get it out there, so it might not make as much sense for me to hide my identity as it would others. I don’t know, I go back and forth in my thinking on how private I want to be…it’s definitely a balancing act since kids are involved.


    • aka gringita says:

      Absolutely agree with you, Mark; there’s balance to be struck. I maintain multiple online identities and/or use different mediums for different purposes (LinkedIn for work, Facebook for friends, separate Twitter accounts (which I barely use) for both… plus 3 WordPress blogs & “identities” (so far)only one of which uses my real name (and that one is for a password-restricted blog).

      One problem with this approach is that I sometimes forget who I’m logged in as. 😉 It’s a bit like having a split personality.

      All different ways of getting to the same place: a friend of mine is an author and he publishes under another name; those of us who *actually* know him know both of his identities, but he keeps his “real” name off the books (literally and figuratively) in large part to protect his kids.


  4. Denise Whitfield says:

    You are so right !!!


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