Managing Your Public and Private Lives

With the rising popularity of social media and social networking, some people are struggling to define their boundaries. What is fair game to disclose online and what should be kept private? This is a question that is largely a matter of personal preference, but there are a few general guidelines that you may want to keep in mind.

The Personal is Public?

Speaking for myself, I tend to vary my Twitter updates to include both professional and personal interests. I’ll talk about the business of freelance writing, but I’ll also send out the occasional TwitPic with a shot of what I made for lunch. I feel this helps to reinforce that I am indeed a real person and not just an online persona.

This may make it seem like I am living and describing the entirety of my life online, but that’s not completely true. There are obviously still some aspects and areas in my life that I’d like to keep private.

This exact sentiment was expressed by Darren Barefoot a while back on his blog. He’s much less likely to discuss the most personal areas of his personal life, but he’ll gladly blog about the conferences he attends or the international traveling he enjoys.

Only You Are Online?

In general, one rule that I try to follow is to keep my tweeting to myself. What this means is that I may talk about my own observations, but I minimize any specific mention of friends or family who are not as involved in the social media world. The same can be said about Facebook updates too.

The exception to this rule is when I talk with or about other social media enthusiasts. This is a part of my marketing strategy, but it’s also to interact with the online community. Mentioning some of the other Dot Com Pho regulars is perfectly acceptable, for instance, but if something is said to me in confidence, I will respect those wishes accordingly.

An Indelible Mark on the Web

Remember that the Internet is forever. Even if you choose to delete that update or remove that picture, it has already been archived some place. Without too much effort, just about anyone can dig it back up.

Don’t post anything online that you will regret down the road. Naturally, you’ll want to avoid posting information that could lend itself to identity theft too. That’s not something that you’d like to experience, I’m sure.

How do you manage your public and private lives? What do you post and what don’t you post?