How To Balance Your Personal and Professional Identities Online

By: | March 1, 2016

Are you a stock broker by day and an activist by night in the online world? Who are you in the cyberspace? Are you the same person or are you someone different? Identity is a multidimensional part of human nature, and the Internet offers you the opportunity to explore the various facets of who you are. The username you choose, the details you give or decide not to reveal about yourself, and the information you share about yourself are all important aspects of how you manage your identity online.

Even if you don’t exist in worlds that are poles apart online and offline, you have personal and professional identities, which in most cases spill over online.

The question is – How do you manage them? Think about a few the dos and don’ts about balancing your personal and professional identities online:

You can be personal

Contrary to what many pundits might be telling you, people want to know who a person is beyond their professional image. There’s no need always to post professional updates or updates related to your industry. People want to see your human side, and it is alright to share pictures or written posts that depict your personal side. When you decide to write about your life, try to write something that shows your beliefs or character. People will connect with a CEO who’s good at cooking or who has amazing guitar skills. However, this doesn’t mean that your picture of getting wasted at your friend’s party or what you had at the corner store for breakfast will score points.

Avoid sharing everything

“The Internet has amplified the importance of ‘self’ identification,” writes psychologist Carl E Pickhardt, to the point that the term has become an acronym. SELF = Showcase Every Little Fact (about me).” He further says that we may have entered a more narcissistic age with this increased ‘self’ preoccupation”. Humm, I think he’s right! However, here is a reality check. Not everybody cares about what you had for lunch unless you had lunch with a celebrity or someone out of the ordinary that is emotionally or intellectually engaging in a novel way.

Create separate accounts

If juggling your personal and professional identities becomes too much for you, you can open different accounts. Ann Handley, MarketingProfs CCO and author of two bestsellers, maintains two separate Twitter accounts namely @AnnHandley and @MarketingProfs. She writes about the brand on her MarketingProfs account while posting more pictures on her personal account. If you choose to have two different accounts, be clear about your intentions in the bios and be clear in the content you share.

Your priorities become apparent when you have two accounts, and there is no confusion about what you’re trying to communicate. Similarly, it becomes easier to serve your customers through business only accounts. Increasingly, more customers expect quicker responses to their queries online; so communication becomes faster when done from a dedicated business account. Once your personal and professional communications are separate, you can even assign a social media manager to manage the responses.

Utilize privacy settings

In case you decide that you’re better off with one account, be thorough with the privacy settings you choose on each platform. Barring Twitter, which is a public platform, other platforms allow different settings for your posts. Facebook is the most flexible among all platforms and allows you maximum settings regarding privacy.

So what should you do?

In social psychology, the concept of role theory explains how a successful life involves efficient multi-tasking based on multiple aspects of our identity, from childhood through adulthood. The Internet provides an opportunity to highlight who we are across the different facets of who we are and what we do, across all of the areas of our life. The online world gives us the opportunity to focus on and develop a particular aspect of who we are and also explore the different facets of our identity that we don’t get a chance to delve into or express in our face-to-face world. Clarifying, sorting and blending the components of our online and offline identities is a new essential skill that comes along with living in the information age.

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