Separated at Birth

by Roger Pynn

There’s a fascinating generational discussion going on in our office about the line between personal and professional as it relates to social media. It boils down to whether you can have a private life in these show-all, see-all digital environments.

There’s consensus across the generations that people need to use their heads when tweeting, posting to Facebook and other communities … and there are boundless examples of people – mostly young – who don’t seem to get that. Irreverent language is everywhere and personal rants that put the speaker at odds with people they have to do business with seem commonplace.

One of our team tweets for business but jealously protects her space on Facebook as a personal digital neighborhood. “Friends” have to be real friends and while she says there’s nothing she posts to Facebook she wouldn’t want to share … she simply doesn’t want to share her personal life in the business neighborhood.

I, on the other hand, think my gray hair has taught me there’s no difference. I can’t escape the business world I live in – nor do I want to – and whether it is online or at the supermarket, what I say is going to be heard and I have to temper it or prepare for deal with the reactions.

We are not born into our business lives, nor were we separated from them at the birth of social media.

What you say is what you get.

2 Responses to Separated at Birth

  1. nimperiale says:

    If there’s one thing I’ve decided, it’s that I say what I mean and I mean what I say. Pretty sure I just plagiarized Dr. Seuss.

    Point is, I’m too old and cranky to pretend to be somebody nicer or prettier or more circumspect than I am. That’s an advantage I, too, have over all the 20somethings still finding themselves and their place in the world.

    The way I allow myself this freedom is by never being anonymous. I always put my name and even web site on everything. I believe it’s something called having the courage of your convictions, and it’s something I was taught a long time ago, before we ever had Message Boards, not to mention personal computers.

  2. Dean Hybl says:


    You bring up a very interesting struggle of this era where privacy seemingly has disappeared and some people are happy to tell you when they are going to get a cup of coffee.

    I seem to have also tilted to the side where Facebook is generally more a place where I converse with old college and high school friends, personal friends and former colleagues. Even if it hasn’t been in 25 years since we were in school, I have some kind of a personal relationship with almost everyone that I am friends with on Facebook. I don’t go looking for strangers to “friend” and don’t accept “friends” that I don’t know (although they are welcome to join the group page focused on my web site). I may share new articles I write for my web site in my posts, but in general Facebook is a place to catch up with old friends and share about what is going on in all our lifes today. However, like you mentioned, I am well aware that everything I write is public domain and therefore am careful not to discuss politics or other things I consider to be personal.

    I have evolved over the 10 months I have been on the service to see Twitter as being all business all the time. I personally know probably less than 20% of the people who follow me and 20% of the people I follow. I have stopped sharing anything about my personal life on Twitter and use it to try and grow professionally and promote my web sites. Like with Facebook, I am aware that nothing is private, so am careful not to share anything I wouldn’t want shared.

    I don’t see there being a right way or wrong way to use social networking, but there are definitely many different approaches. I guess the key is to figure out what you are personally comfortable with and what is the best use of your time. That will be different for each of us.

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