Monday, June 20, 2011

Professional And Personal Identities

I have come across a number of people who are struggling to keep their professional and personal identities separate on social media. The challenges are common: Have two twitter accounts or one? Have read so many stories, few with happy endings but a lot more lot less pleasant, of people mixing up their twitter accounts and sending wrong messages to wrong people. On a more involved scale, getting one's work colleagues on Facebook, and the recent case of one of the jurors contacting one of the defendants, is something fraught with danger. However, another side of the story is that it is incredibly difficult to keep the two separate, and often, an honest effort smacks of dishonesty and manipulative behaviour.

The point, indeed, is that this is all about an individual person and it is best to be as open and honest to the world as possible. However, it is equally true to that the world in this case is a suffocating place governed by hypocracy and political correctness, and absolutely no sense of humour. We often expect the our public selves to be as boring and bland as possible, without any sense of humour, sexual urge or political opinions. It is almost impossible to be true to yourself unless you don't really have to care, which is impossible if you are in public service in some way. This should only be possible if you are a small entrepreneur, or an artist or a writer, but then too, plain-speaking is often problematic.

I am no lover of political correctness but I do love mixing up my personal and public persona and usually keep this blog as a very public diary, linked to Linkedin and open to my business contacts. Some of the posts are clearly risque, and while I indulge on essays at times, my more personal posts draw more comments and earn me friends. Indeed, they bring awkward moments too, particularly when I see someone at work picking up precisely the bits I didn't want them to see. But this far outweighs the benefits that I derived from deeper bonds with people I wouldn't otherwise not know well. In fact, I have found, while people talk about 'shallow' relationships in the age of Internet, honest blogging may help repair this shallowness to some extent. Besides, connections between coworkers, which has almost always been shallow (except for a few corporations which actively worked to promote it) can, I would believe, improve with social media intervention of this kind.

I think the key point is that we live in a more transparent time and adapting to such transparency should be central to how we communicate and conduct our lives. Trying to cling on to an outmoded concept of privacy, and the walls between private and professional lives, are no longer viable. It has been some time we knew Chester Bernard's dictum that while companies pay their employees to perform certain tasks, it is the whole person who comes to work: Indeed, it is time to we stop fearing transparency and start being the whole person we are supposed to be.

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