Pay No Attention to that Woman Behind the Curtain

This is not a “25 Things You Don’t Know About Me” post. In fact, this is sort of the opposite of that meme.

There are a lot more than 25 things you don’t know about me. Guess what? I’m not telling you what they are.

As a professional social media geek, I’m 100% behind the whole “Cluetrain Manifesto” ideal of openness and transparency–to a point. I’m behind it in the sense of not hiding real problems and issues and Stuff People Should Know behind meaningless marketingspeak and spin doctoring. I’m in favor of being honest, at the corporate level and at the personal level.

But I also respect the fact that some things are and should be private.

News flash! I participate in several private, closed-membership online communities. Each closed community I’m involved with is private for some very good reasons. Not everything should be shared.

People participate every day in healing communities, online and offline, where anonymity is a condition of membership. Alcoholics Anonymous, and its many 12 Step siblings, is “Anonymous” for some really good reasons. People struggle with hard things in life. All people struggle with things–me included–and they have the right to the space and privacy they need to win that struggle.

I subscribe to Sean D’Souza’s excellent “Psychotactics” enewsletter. This week’s topic was “We’re all imposters.” The Cliffs Notes version is that most “experts,” particularly in web marketing, are still figuring this stuff out ourselves–and always will be. We learn by teaching, and the learning curve never ends.

How much of that learning curve we allow the world at large to see is largely a matter of personal choice. There are benefits to sharing your own gaffes and goofups, and there are costs associated with it.

In many respects, I’m the bare-it-and-share-it girl. Because I like sharing.

But here’s the deal: there’s a curtain that you, my reader friends, won’t get to see behind.

I write this knowing have friends and family who are quietly appalled at how much personal stuff I disclose online. I also have friends and colleagues who disclose much more than I would be comfortable doing.

And therein is the application for you. It’s a brave new world out there. Social utilities and online communities and tools can connect you to your old high school buddies or your family in Des Moines. But they can’t tell you how much to share with them.

They can help you find a job–heck, they helped me find a job when I wasn’t even looking for one. But they can’t tell you whether you’ll be really happy and comfortable in that new workplace.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide where to place that velvet curtain, and what goes in front of it, and what stays out of sight.

6 Comments


  1. ·

    The so-called second law of social networking is that we will all share twice as much information next year as we did this one. Interestingly, the more I use soc med for work, the less I use it for me. I have a personal blog that has crickets, and last night I cranked the privacy on Facebook to 11.

    I too have joined a few closed groups, but I’m also trying to start real life ones to talk about the stuff going on here.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Matts last story..Delicious can show off how smart you are

    Reply
  2. Kat
    ·

    Mark and Matt – Thanks for chiming in!

    I subscribe to the iceberg theory of public disclosure. You only ever see 10%. So when you find yourself thinking “Wow, this person is really putting themselves out there.” the truth is, there’s an even bigger mass of “stuff” you’re NOT seeing.

    Similarly, as Mark points out, someone you may think is private or discrete or mysterious may in fact just be… boring.

    And Matt, I’m having the opposite experience. But I think it’s because I had the same experience last year and the year before. When I went from “person who uses blogs and forums and such” to “social media professional” my personal participation mostly dropped off the map.

    But for the last month or so, I find that I’m relaxing and having more fun, and there is a lot more personal peanut butter mixing with the chocolate of my professional life online.

    And some of that was what we’re talking about here: not losing your personal self in your public persona. Creating space for some privacy and growing room. Good luck with that, man. πŸ™‚

    Reply
  3. Crystal Peterson
    ·

    Hey Kat – you must be reading my mind. I have been thinking about this a lot lately. I first got in to the social media stuff (facebook, twitter) for work – networking and recruiting. But now a lot of my friends and family are also on fb and twitter and the lines are starting to cross. I think social media is great and I would like to do more (like blogging) but I find myself posting less because I’m stuck in between two worlds. Hopefully soon I’ll figure out a happy medium, or at least where to place the velvet curtain. πŸ™‚

    Reply
  4. Kat
    ·

    Crystal – Thanks for dropping in! It’s tricky stuff–like you, lately a lot of folks from my personal life are turning up on FB, and it’s almost as if my high school class and family just sort of showed up en masse at my workplace! It’s kinda awkward.

    I think it’s easier, though, when you’re a person who is generally comfortable in her own skin. So I think you’ll figure it all out sooner rather than later. πŸ™‚

    Reply

  5. ·

    The so-called second law of social networking is that we will all share twice as much information next year as we did this one. Interestingly, the more I use soc med for work, the less I use it for me. I have a personal blog that has crickets, and last night I cranked the privacy on Facebook to 11.

    I too have joined a few closed groups, but I'm also trying to start real life ones to talk about the stuff going on here.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    <abbr>Matts last story..Delicious can show off how smart you are</abbr>

    Reply

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