Social Media and Self-Identity

Young professionals are now facing the conodurum of receiving friend request’s from new employers or more formal contacts.  We already know that the teens are fleeing  Facebook since parents, uncles, teachers, etc have started monitoring their activities there. But what about those of us that are more established with our online social networks? It’s easy to avoid that aunt, or even your dad, on Facebook. But the employment one is more difficult to figure out.

I’ve been thinking about this since I’m currently reading Danah Boyd’s It’s Complicated.  Her book focuses on teen use of social media but it raises interesting questions about how and why people use digital platforms to communicate and also how that affects the quality of their lives. In an offline context, most people would act differently depending on the environment–in their living room, at a bar, at a business networking event, etc. Why shouldn’ t it be the same online? I’ve only just joined Linkdn with a view to facilitating my long-term career progression.  I’m also on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Reddit. I’m “signed up” on Instagram and Google Plus but I don’t use either. There is actually not much overlap in my social networks, but they serve different purposes:

Facebook is like me at a house party. I’m at the bar. I’m talking about stuff I would talk about at a bar, in the way that I would at the bar on a Saturday night. I’m not talking politics or anything too heavy, on here I simply don’t take myself too seriously. If someone is going to friend me here, ideally it would be someone that I’d be comfortable downing a couple of shots with on a pub crawl. Or someone who I’d be ok inviting to a friends block house party.

Facebook is also where I share photos from social events. Another cool area of Facebook I’ve discovered is that it’s actually pretty decent for following famous personalities or activities in a casual sense.  It’s actually kind of cool to see what other projects and adventures the crew of X-Men or Fast & Furious experience (by the way for my marketers, the marketing for the X-Men: Days of Future Past movie was off the charts, they did a fantastic job on Facebook marketing that for a year).

Twitter meanwhile is where I follow industry leaders on topics that I actually would feel compelled to engage in. For me that is International Relations, Politics, Tech, Social Media.  I just find it a more intellectual endeavor than Facebook in the way that I use it. I also dabble in soccer over there, as you get news directly from the top journalists in the sport and you can even interact with them sometimes–again this is at a higher level.  Obviously some people use it as a stream-of-thought style, which is how I use Facebook.

Pinterest meanwhile is where I go to dream. Pinterest is the digital depiction of my dreams and fantasies.  My fondest hobbies, my biggest wishes, things that take my breath away….I display those on Pinterest, where pictures speak a thousand words. Here, it does not matter who I follow or who is following me, it’s irrelevant.

Reddit, I’m there for getting answers to random Q & As. For me, Reddit has taken over from Yahoo Answers! which used to be the best at this pre-social media.  I’m also there for anime, which is another of my hobbies (I have many hobbies–why not? Having too many things that provide pleasure in your life is better than having the opposite problem where you are bored and nothing tugs at your heart).

Linkedn is new to me, I’ve only just signed on.  I’m still trying to figure it out but I think it will end up being a resource to help or get help from alumni and work colleagues for professional networking. Some of the articles I’ve seen are interesting, but it can become a source of information overload, plus for industry trends I prefer getting it directly from thought leaders on Twitter.

Yet my expectations of these platforms and how I use them may differ widely from others–for example, Reddit describes itself as ” an entertainment, social networking service and news website where registered community members can submit content, such as text posts or direct links.” Yet I never use it as a news source at all–the thought had never even occurred to me until I decided to write this blog post (I get my news on Twitter).  Nor have I use it for entertainment per se (that’s Facebook for me).   Returning to the premise of this post then is it appropriate for everyone to be in all of your networks? Or is it highly dependent on context? Is it leading a double-life to present different faces on different platforms? Or is the self always shining through, and you should be an open book everywhere and all the time?  Are these questions Human Resource Officers should consider when developing corporate social media policies for employees?