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Boundaries – Separation of professional and social online identities

July 18, 2011
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Social media plays a pretty big part in my blogging / skeptical / scicom life, as it brings our truly global community together, allowing quite rapid collaboration and communication with thought leaders, content creators, researchers, writers and so-forth. The usual suspects, Twitter and Facebook, have served me well, and I now routinely communicate with other skeptics, podcasters, scicommers and scientists around the world.

My greatest challenge however, has been walking the tightrope of self-moderation when professional contacts, old school-friends and general social contacts have been ‘friended’ with me on Facebook, some of whom hold quite different political, religious and ideological views. Given that the vast majority of my comments which make their way (usually via Twitter), onto my Facebook wall are in some way related to my views in these areas, maintaining professional and social separation has been very difficult.

Once Google+ entered the scene, it quickly became clear I had a growing problem: How could I use these social networks to further my collaboration and communication on topics of interest to me, whilst at the same time managing to avoid offending non-skeptical friends, or provoking arguments or judgement by people with whom my professional relationships are essential?

The solution I adopted was to sever my Facebook ‘friendships’ with these professional contacts and casual acquaintances outside my skeptical / scientific circle, keeping Facebook & Twitter for my ‘Skeptical’ online identity, LinkedIn for my ‘Professional’ online identitiy, and Google+ for my social interactions. I’m not thrilled about it, as sometimes it’s nice to trade one-liners with old friends, but to be honest there’s no real enhancement of these friendships through these casual interactions. There were many people with whom I’d linked over the years but hadn’t interacted with for almost as long. Most of these relationships won’t suffer from less interaction, zero being the level at which they’d settled anyway.

If you happen to be someone with whom I’ve severed my Facebook relationship, please don’t take offence. This doesn’t mean I value you any less, it just means I’d rather interact with you via other means, preferably face-to-face! Look for me on Google+ and I’ll be happy to add you to a circle.

If you’re a skeptic, scicommer, scientist, journalist or critical thinker, look for me on Facebook and introduce yourself!

Finally, if you’re a workmate and you’d consider me outside your close circle of friends, please look for me on LinkedIn, which is where I maintain my Professional online identity and communications, or Google+ which seems to be a bit of a free-for-all at the moment.

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