by C.G. Lynch

How Do You Manage Your Social Networking Identity?

Mar 03, 20083 mins

Having Facebook for friends and family, and

LinkedIn for work, isn’t good enough.

That’s what occurred to me as I stared at a hysterical (yet highly profane) “wall” posting on my Facebook page recently, sent from my old roommate, Meghan. It was a reference to a movie we used to watch in our drafty Boston apartment, a film that was so overwhelmingly awful it became good for that very reason (Patrick Swayze’s 1989 gem, Roadhouse, is the film in question).

Unfortunately, I had to delete Meghan’s wall post right away.

But why? Isn’t this Facebook, where it’s just my friends viewing my profile? Wouldn’t my friends pick up the reference and join in on the laughs with Meghan and me?

Well, that’d be true if my “Friends” on Facebook were truly just friends. But as the user-base of Facebook has grown (generally viewed as a good thing), so too has the type of people on my “friend” list. I grant access to colleagues (including my bosses) and my sources in the technology community. The wall post, while funny, might not have resonated with that entire audience, and definitely had the potentiality to unintentionally offend some people.

Until now, the most prominent examples of poor profile management have been in the form of high school and college kids who have lost job offers after a recruiter finds pictures of them playing Beer Pong on their Facebook pages (that story has been done to death, over and over, in different forms). But I think this issue will run deeper than that in the coming years, and my incident with Meghan’s post on my otherwise very tame Facebook page serves, I think, as a decent example.

For those of us who merely want to keep a balanced personal and professional life – where we utilize a social network both to stay in touch with close friends but also to connect with other professionals – it’s just not entirely possible to do right now without a lot of careful management. Facebook does offer a “limited profile” option, which can be helpful, but right now it lacks the specificity people want in setting access for different users and also creates a lot of red tape around friending someone in the first place.

Many argue we should use Facebook for the personal life and LinkedIn for the professional, but I’m afraid that’s just not good enough, at least until LinkedIn becomes some place I’d actually like to socialize and do business. While it’s a great repository for an online resume, and they have made some improvements, the environment still feels drab and unsocial. LinkedIn is like having a conference in a boring, concrete-walled room, where as Facebook, in comparison, is like having one at a resort by the ocean with colorful drinks and wonderful food. As CIO editor in chief Abbie Lundberg described perfectly in a comment on, “Facebook is the equivalent of a dinner party where you spend time with people you really have stuff in common with – whether professional interests or ideas about social trends, movies, books.”

The question is simple: How much should you share? And should we just keep setting up different social networks for different reasons. To me, that sounds exhausting, but perhaps, for now, it’s the only answer.

Feel free to e-mail me your thoughts, as this is a topic I’ll be revisiting, or leave a comment below.